Go Back

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

The network of Finnish Institutes and the Finnish Institute in London

My relationship with Finnish cultural and academic institutes began in Rome in the 1980s. In 1984 I took part in an excursion of art history at the Villa Lante on Early Christian and Mediaeval art and architecture, which was arranged by the University of Jyväskylä. Then my subject was Early Christian funerary basilicas, such as Old St Peter's. Later I worked at the Finnish Institute in Rome for several stints as a scholarship researcher and teacher of art historical excursions.

The Villa Lante has not only been a home base in Rome but also a vital networking centre. There I have met colleagues not only from Italy and other countries but also surprisingly many Finns from various fields. Sometimes it feels that it is only in Rome that I see many of my friends.

In Instituto Cervantes, Madrid with Spanish colleague Maria José Magana Clemente. The former bank vault is used for “time travel”: artists can deposit something in a box and assign a date for its opening.

Only through my post in London have I truly become acquainted with the network of Finnish Institutes and my colleagues around the world.

The annual autumn meetings, conferences, and training courses offered by the Finnish Cultural and Academic Institutes (SKTI), which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, are vital for the mutual cooperation of the network of institutes. They bring us together face to face and enable an open discussion of our shared issues. They also encourage us to create joint projects together and with neighbouring organisations such as arts promotion centres. It has been wonderful to join an international community of kindred spirits.

The Finnish Institute in London, which opened in 1991, is an active community where there is always a lot going on. The mission of the Institute is to promote Finland and international cooperation with Finland in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. We do this by long-term support of networking and bringing people and organisations together. We also support the internationalisation of Finnish artists, researchers, and other social and cultural players. In addition to the network of Finnish Institutes, we are also a member of EUNIC, the network of European cultural institutes in London.

In the new office of the Finnish Institute in London, King's Cross. Photo: Jenni Bergman.

The Finnish Institute in London is an institute for both culture and research. In addition to our art and cultural programme, we have a society programme which traditionally also includes research. Art, culture, and society are in close interaction, and we strive to combine the perspectives and abilities of the two programmes whenever possible.

As Head of Programme, Arts & Culture, I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with the art scene in Finland, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland alike. In recent years our focus has been on contemporary art, design, and architecture, but from 2016 architecture will be replaced by physical theatre. Thus, our programming will include more contemporary circus, among others.

In less than two years in London, it feels like I have learned more new things, met more new colleagues, and seen more culture than in many previous years put together. London has an incredibly diverse cultural scene, but our operations are not just limited to London, and I have also become familiar with many other cities. This is partly because of our major long-term projects, such as our artist-in-residence programme in cooperation with British and Irish artist residency programmes and the three-year Mobius mobility programme, which we run together with the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York.

I think artist residencies are one of the best ways to help contemporary artists network and become more international – especially if the residency project is well run, with support for the artist. This year we were able to place four visual artists, and next year we have at least one Finnish ceramic artist in residence at the Victoria & Albert Museum for six months

At the launch party of The Mediator, a biography of Martti Ahtisaari, in the residence of the Finnish ambassador, London. Photo: Auli Valpola.

For London the Mobius fellowship programme moves visual arts, museum, and archives professionals between Finland, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland. Mobius fellows have the opportunity to work a few months abroad in an interesting organisation, and we have partnered with numerous museums, archives, and contemporary art organisations in all three nations. The programme has also strengthened our cooperation with the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York.

It's intensive work at the Finnish Institute in London, and since our team only consists of the Director, two Heads of Programme, the Head of Communication & Events, an administrative secretary, and about five interns, flexible division of labour and good cooperation are a must for all. Our particular strengths are agility and an ability to quickly seize hot new themes and topics.

Go Back