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Johanna Vakkari

Born March 19, 1961, Sippola

Master of Arts (art history) 1989, University of Jyväskylä
Licentiate 1998 and PhD (art history) 2007, University of Helsinki
Docent in Italian Renaissance art and the history of art history 2008, University of Turku
Docent in art history 2009, University of Helsinki

Head of Programme, Arts & Culture 2014–16, the Finnish Institute in London
Director (acting) October 1, 2014–January 14, 2015, the Finnish Institute in London
Senior Coordinator 2011–, Academy of Fine Arts, University of the Arts
Post-doc researcher 2008–11, A Portrait of Art History, Critical Approaches to Finnish Art History and Historians – a University of Helsinki project funded by the Academy of Finland
Member of the research network: 2007–11, Vision of the Past: Images as Historical Sources and the History of Art History – a NordForsk funded Nordic researcher network project.
University lecturer (acting) in art history 2008–10, University of Helsinki
Art history amanuensis (acting) and coordinator of the national doctoral school, 2007–2008, University of Helsinki
University lecturer (acting) in art history 2005
Instructor in art history, 2004–2005, University of Helsinki
Assistant in art history 1998–2004, University of Helsinki
Art history amanuensis (acting), 1997, University of Helsinki
Research assistant in art history 1995–97, University of Helsinki
Part-time teacher of art history 1995–98, University of Helsinki
Part-time teacher of art history 1994–98, Open University, University of Helsinki

Board member of the Academy of Fine Arts 2013, University of the Arts
Board member of the Nordic Committee for Art History 2009–
Chairman of the Society for Art History in Finland and editor in chief of the journal Taidehistoriallisia tutkimuksia (‘Studies in Art History’) and the online publication TAHITI 2011–13
Working member of the Finnish Antiquarian Society 2009–
Board member of the Institute of Art Research 2001–03, University of Helsinki

Research areas: contemporary art, contemporary jewellery, the history of art history, methods and theories, art connoisseurship, old Italian art

The Kaarlo Koskimies and Irma Koskimies Scholarship Fund prize for best doctoral dissertation 2008, University of Helsinki
Teaching Technology Competition official recognition of excellence 2002, University of Helsinki

Photo: Anna Orhanen
Written by Johanna Vakkari (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Dreams and spiders

I hope still to be able to do many useful things, learn something new, and use my knowledge and skills to help others. Right now, promoting art and culture is closest to my heart, but I know that at some point I will want to return to teaching and research. I would also like to become fluent in Spanish and work on my other languages.

In the long run I would like to live by the sea and do research somewhere that doesn't have interminable cold and darkness. Although I have already lived by the sea in Helsinki and Venice, while also involved in research, I'm still searching for the ideal environment. I also dream of long walks, reading, music, films, good food and wine, friends, the universe, and spiders.

Of all my hobbies, spiders is the one I'd most like to improve. Spiders are beautiful and fascinating creatures with numerous behavioural patterns from complex mating dances to hunting their prey and taking care of their offspring. At their most beautiful, their dorsal patterns and colours resemble oriental carpets and many of their webs are architecturally dazzling. Without spiders our life on this planet would be quite difficult, since they eat more insects than all the other insectivores put together.

European garden spider (Araneus diadematus). Photo: Johanna Vakkari.

Many people have a negative attitude to spiders. In the absence of an actual phobia, I believe that is because we tend to fear and avoid things we don't know. The more familiar a thing is, the easier it is to consider rationally.

An increase in knowledge doesn't always signify an increase in suffering – it can also increase freedom, confidence, understanding, and tolerance. I believe this holds for everything, not merely for spiders.

Memorial plaque for the last people in England to be executed for witchcraft, Exeter. Photo: Johanna Vakkari.


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