Opinion: Practices of good governance must be followed in the art field

In recent weeks, a number of visual artists have questioned the partnerships and funding sources of the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and thus the Finnish National Gallery. The discussion at hand is related to the financial and social responsibility of public institutions – both of which are included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals program, to which the Finnish government is also committed.

The discussion raised by artists about sustainable funding of art institutions is a great opportunity for all of us to improve our practices related to good governance. However, in recent days the discussion seems to have gone astray.

In recent years, artists have challenged art organisations on several responsibility and sustainability issues. Many of the artists involved in the strike towards Kiasma have been doing active work promoting equality and ethical practices in the art field for a long time. Thanks to these necessary openings, art institutions – including Kiasma and Frame – have changed their operations to better take into account equality and social responsibility.

Artists have also challenged us towards more environmentally responsible ways of working, as a result of which numerous art organisations have begun to pay more attention to ecological sustainability in their operations.

Now the artists’ challenge concerns the financial responsibility of art institutions, which is also a conversation topic in the international art world: What kind of donations do we accept? What kind of partners do we work with? How are our funds invested? The answers to these questions should be a central part of every organisation’s principles of good governance.

I hope we all accept this challenge and have important discussions in our organisations about the financial sustainability of our operations. Every art organisation’s website should contain, like other social responsibility practices, the institution’s ethical guidelines regarding fundraising, partnerships, and investments.

Artists have the right to critically examine all the use of power in art organisations, and require ethical and transparent ways of working from us. It is also in the interest of both institutions and society as a whole.

Raija Koli

CEO, Frame Contemporary Art Finland

This text was originally published in Finnish in the Helsingin Sanomat opinion pages on 14 December 2022.