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Guggenheim Helsinki: The View from Finland (plus my second Finnish TV gig)

Ivan Puopolo, reportier for the “Strada” program of Finnish Broadcast Company’s YLE TV1, standing on the presumed site of the proposed Guggenheim Helsinki

The City of Helsinki yesterday reported that the feasibility study for the proposed Guggenheim Helsinki will be completed by Dec. 30, as scheduled. But it will not be publicly released until Jan. 10.

So what kind of museum will it be? My new Finnish television friend, Axa Sorjanen of the Strada program on the Finnish Broadcast Company’s YLE TV1, told me that a “reliable source” had informed him that “the essence of
Guggenheim’s feasibility study is a plan to melt the Finnish Design Museum and
Finnish Museum of Architecture into the new Helsinki Guggenheim. So the
new museum would be strongly oriented towards design and architecture.”

I floated this balloon past Eleanor Goldhar, the Guggenheim’s deputy director and chief of global communications, who swatted it away as “speculation, and we don’t comment on
speculation. The report will be available when the mayor releases it. Until
then we have no comments.”

You can read the full text of Helsinki’s announcement regarding the upcoming release of the feasibility study here. For those of you who need to brush up on your Finnish, below is an approximate translation (via Google Translate, edited by CultureGrrl for better English syntax and fuller identification of those named below):

Study commissioned from the Guggenheim Museum on the possible establishment of Guggenheim Helsinki to be released by Mayor Jussi Pajuselle on Tuesday morning, Jan. 10

Publication of the results of the study will be transmitted live on the same day [Jan. 10] from 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. at the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki, as well as on the cable channel StadiTV Journal. It can also be seen later in a Helsinki-channel recording.

The report will present the results of the work led by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s deputy director responsible for global strategies, Juan Ignacio Vidarte, its deputy director Ari Wiseman, Helsinki Mayor Jussi Pajunen, Helsinski Deputy Mayor for Education, Culture and Human Resources Tuula Haatainen, and Helsinki Art Museum Director Janne Gallen-Siren. The discussion will be chaired by Pekka Timonen, director of Finland’s WDC [World Design Capital] 2012 Foundation.

The City of Helsinki last January commissioned from the Guggenheim Foundation a concept-and-development report, which examines the feasibility of establishing a Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki. The report’s mandate is to identify multi-disciplinary art museum functions and structures, and to understand what a museum of the 2000s could be.
The report ‘s completion date is Dec. 30. Due to the year-end holiday period, the City of Helsinki decided to release a report on Jan. 10.

As announced in October on the Guggenheim’s website, the steering committee for the project met in New York on Dec. 9 for its fourth and final meeting, to review the draft of the feasibility study. Otso Kantokorpi, a Helsinki-based journalist, art critic and curator, informed me (and Goldhar confirmed) that the cost of the feasibility study was $2.5 million. Otso says half that amount was paid by the City of Helsinki, with the rest contributed by two private foundations. Goldhar told me that the fee was not designed to be cash-generating, but to defray the study’s costs.

A Oct. 28 segment on TV1’s “Strada” floated some more balloons, with this on-screen list of purported costs (in Euros; two with question marks) for the project (feasibility study, licensing fee [for the Guggenheim’s name] and construction cost, respectively):


In that same segment, reported by Sanna Stellan (an actress working largely from a script, not a professional journalist), you can see her mostly unproductive chat (in English) with Ari Wiseman, the Guggenheim’s deputy director. He embarrassingly stumbled over the pronunciation of the name of the man you see above, Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén, director of the Helsinki Art Museum and a crucial player in the Guggenheim project (thought to be possibly in line to be named as its director).

At the beginning of last Friday’s “Strada” segment (in which I get the last word, speaking English in midtown Manhattan), Ivan Puopolo is standing on what is said to be the site of the proposed new Guggenheim (shown at the top of this post). It is located in the Katajanokka district, adjacent to the center of Helsinki. (City Hall and the Presidential Palace can be seen behind Ivan.)

Ivan interviews (in Finnish) Juulia Kauste, director of National Museum of Architecture; Jukka Savolainen, assistant director of Finnish Design Museum; and Pirkko Siitari, director of Kiasma, the National Museum of Modern Arts. None would or could give details on the proposed plans, but Savolainen did say that Guggenheim is interested in design.

The part of my conversation with Ivan that didn’t make in onto the program was what I said directly after the comments they used: From what I knew about Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong, I thought he would be sensitive to the need for close cooperation with the existing arts community in Helsinki.

I won’t embed the clip (almost entirely in Finnish) on CultureGrrl, but you can see it here and hear me near the end, at about 4:20. I misspoke though, when I suggested that the costs of previous feasibility studies were higher than than that for the Helsinki study. (I mistakenly had in mind the much higher licensing fees for past proposed projects.) For example, the cost of the 2002 feasibility study for the never-realized Guggenheim Rio de Janeiro (to have been designed by Jean Nouvel) was $2 million.

In other Global Guggenheim news: Guggenheim Collection: The American Avant-Garde 1945-1980 goes on view Feb. 7-May 6 at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome.

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