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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

On diversity and tolerance

I grew up in a village where part of the population had lived there for centuries and part were World War II evacuees from Karelia or had moved there later. The family of one of my grandmothers was from Karelia. Even as a child I came across questions of identity, although I only understood it better later. My classmates came from farming, working-class, and professional families alike, as well as from a child caring institution and from Romani families. There was also a youth home in the village, where you could see the boys who lived and worked there. As far as I could tell, social background had no effect on relationships between children.

In Helsinki my last home was in Vuosaari, which is one of the most multicultural neighbourhoods in Helsinki and the whole of Finland. I was fortunate in many ways to be able to live in an environment where differences were mainly seen as assets. Although I was living in the Vuosaari Artist House, where I'm sure community feeling and appreciation of diversity were especially strong.

Moving to London and the United Kingdom also meant moving into a society where multiculturalism has really long traditions. Due to a history of colonialism, society here has of course evolved in different ways and for different reasons than in Finland, but people have moved here for the exact same reasons: to escape persecution, as refugees, or looking for a better life. In the United Kingdom, multiculturalism is part of everyday life. Most people I have met have some part of their roots elsewhere in Europe or on other continents.

Community work is a major part of the work and policies of cultural institutions in the United Kingdom. It has been fascinating to follow how museums in many cities strive to involve diverse ethnic communities in their activities. But even in the United Kingdom things don't always work out harmoniously, and attitudes towards new immigrants often depend on the government of the day. Still, London is a city where you can experience the whole world at once – a place to bolster your faith in the fundamental unity of all humanity.

Johanna Vakkari in year 3 at Sippola primary school in 1970, first standing row in the middle (red overalls and white shirt with stripes around the sleeves).


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