Boycott of Finnish National Gallery ends in success
The artworkers’ strike against the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma resulted with significant negotiation leading to a substantial milestone for the art community and the museum world in Finland, and hopefully abroad.
The Kiasma strike started on 1st of December, 2022, after weeks of fruitless negotiations between the art workers and Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. The art workers questioned the museum’s collaboration with Kiasma Support Foundation board member Chaim “Poju” Zabludowicz, whose wealth is derived from decades of arms trade between Finland and Israel, and whose other investments are complicit in supporting Israeli occupation policies and human rights abuses against Palestinians.
For over ten years, members of the art community in Finland had publicly criticised this collaboration. In 2022, the pressure to act in solidarity was a direct result of leading human rights organisations now defining Israel as an apartheid regime. Thus, the collaboration was a sign that the ethical guidelines for private funding of the Finnish National Gallery (FNG), which governs Kiasma's activities, were not in line with the commitment to social justice that is expected from the museum by the artist communities in Finland.
Initially the strike was joined by 42 people, but during its five months the number grew to 220 art workers and four arts organisations. Through the strike, the art workers expressed their refusal to have their work associated with unethical investments.
During the new negotiation process which began after the strike was announced, the strikers and the FNG collaborated on organising two events that focused on the legal and ethical frameworks and practices for cultural funding, engaging professionals in the arts and museum field.
The strike ended in a successful negotiation on 27th April 2023. The FNG committed to changes that ensured that its policies regarding receiving private funding will be more ethical. There are three major changes.
First, the "Ethical Guidelines for Fundraising and Private Funding of the National Gallery of Finland" set out the criteria for the three museums that come under the FNG (Ateneum, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, and Sinebrychoff Art Museum). The museums:
"[D]o not accept donations from or collaborate with organisations involved in industries such as oil and gas production, tobacco industry, weapons manufacturing or the production of environmentally hazardous chemicals. Nor will the Finnish National Gallery accept support from entities on the Finnish Government’s sanctions list. Moreover, the Finnish National Gallery does not collaborate with organisations or other bodies whose operations promote the oppression of minorities, authoritarian governance, gender inequality or criminal activities."
Second, the FNG implemented structural changes that enable more transparency to the processes regarding private funding. From now on, anyone can request and review documents regarding the FNG’s decisions on receiving private support.
Thirdly, the FNG severed its formal ties with the Kiasma Support Foundation. Kiasma’s Director Leevi Haapala resigned from the Foundation’s board and the FNG will not appoint members to the board in the future. Also the Kiasma Support Foundation website is no longer hosted on Kiasma's site.
Kiasma_strike considers these three changes sufficient to ensure that the goal of the strike has been met. The artistic community in Finland will monitor how the new private funding guidelines are implemented and applied in the future.
The strikers, brought together by a commitment to advance human rights, see the changes made by the Finnish National Gallery as a welcome step in institutional accountability, setting a new standard for the entire art and museum field in Finland and abroad.
Thank you to everyone who participated in Kiasma_strike, as well as those who supported it. Check out our archive on this website and get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Art Academic Eija-Liisa Ahtila: "We are pleased with the successful dialogue and its results. Now we have clear and up-to-date ethical guidelines for the Finnish National Gallery. The guidelines benefit the entire art and museum field in Finland and are in line with relevant regulations abroad. They clarify the process and make it more just and safe, for museums, donors and artists."
Artist Matti Aikio: "It is important for the whole field that the ethical guidelines of national art institutions are discussed publicly. As an artist, I see active involvement in these discussions as a responsibility."
Artist Özgu Gundeslioglu: "Such a prominent achievement! Heartfelt congrats to initiators, committed workers, strikers and supporters! Proud of us and love you all!"
Visual artist Terike Haapoja: “The strike began in solidarity with the Palestinians. It is significant that Finland’s largest public art institution has taken the issue of human rights seriously. We are happy that we have been able to have this difficult conversation in a constructive spirit, so that we can return to work together in a good spirit.”
Artist Jenna Jauhiainen: “The decision to organise a strike was strategically smart – even though many of us were not at the time working with Kiasma, the increasing number of artists and organisations joining the strike kept the public pressure growing. The success of the strike shows we do have collective power, even though our work is largely precarious. I hope to see art workers in Finland and abroad utilise this collective power in advancing social justice and human rights.”
Chair of the Artists’ Association of Finland and President of the International Association of Art (IAA) Europe Teemu Mäki: "Finnish Art Association representatives appointed to the Finnish National Gallery Council will receive information on funding decisions yearly. This added transparency enables follow ups and a continued process of developing the guidelines in accordance with our changing world".
Artist Pilvi Takala: "During the strike, artists cancelled shows and the museum had to change its program. Artists revoked sales and faced financial setbacks. These measures springboarded a discussion on values, in which the art field got broadly involved in and led to the Finnish National Gallery re-evaluating its ethical guidelines."
Artist Martta Tuomaala: "It is crucial that the voice of artworkers is heard and taken into account. This negotiation is an encouraging proof of collective power's significance. These kinds of examples have a wider influence on the public conversations regarding values and human rights."
Performance artist Eero Yli-Vakkuri: "The entire art and museum field in Finland will benefit from the results of the dialogue. We are satisfied with the conversations with Kiasma, our collaboration in organising the discussion events and the initiative Finnish National Gallery staff took in the matter."