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Leevi Haapala

Born September 24, 1972, Keuruu

Master of Arts (art history, museology, cultural history) 1997, University of Turku
PhD (art history) 2012, University of Helsinki

Museum Director 2015–, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art
Professor of Praxis 2014–15, Academy of Fine Arts/University of the Arts
Acting Chief Curator of Collections, amanuensis and member of the acquisitions committee 2007–2014, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art
Researcher 1997–2007, Central Art Archives/ Finnish National Gallery
Civilian national service 1994–95, Museum of Contemporary Art

Jury member for the Ars Fennica Award 2015–
Board member of the Kiasma Foundation 2015–
Board member of the Pro Arte Foundation and member of the working group for the IHME Contemporary Art Festival 2008–15
Member of the expert group for Young Artist of the Year, Tampere Art Museum 2012­–15

Photo: National Gallery/Pirje Mykkänen
Written by Olli Siitonen

Translated by Matthew Billington


Under the aegis of Ms Pirkko Siitari, who was director of Kiasma until spring 2015, the museum’s exhibition programme was essentially planned through to the end of 2016. Dr Leevi Haapala tells us they are now working on the forthcoming ARS17 exhibition as well as on further exhibitions and themes for the coming years. Autumn 2015 holds a strong flavour of politics and social issues. In addition to School of Disobedience by Jani Leinonen, in October Demonstrating Minds, an exhibition of dissenting voices in contemporary art, was opened.

“I feel topicality is one of our key criteria. We want to showcase contemporary art both from Finland and abroad, especially from the Millennial generation. The visitor profile of Kiasma is relatively youthful, as more than half our visitors are below 35. The content and presenters of art need to live in the same age as the public. Another challenge is to present the research aspect of the museum in our exhibitions and offer ways to learn more about the works for those who are interested. Different sections of the public need different approaches.”

Dr Haapala feels Kiasma should be a forum for artists, debaters, and thinkers. The artworks and artists the museum presents are its contribution to the ongoing debate. The mission of the museum of contemporary art is to present art from various cultures, selected from the global flood of art for a Finnish audience.

The opening reception of School of Disobedience by Jani Leinonen. President Tarja Halonen, Chair of the Board of the Finnish National Gallery, flanked by the artist himself and the faculty of the School of Disobedience. Photo: Finnish National Gallery/Pirje Mykkänen.

“The fundamental mission of contemporary art is to present art from this age and depict the world we live in. Sometimes it may be difficult for people to understand the difference between modern art and contemporary art, that we don't worry so much whether a work is figurative or not. On the other hand we do concentrate on what and how art tells us about our time.”

Dr Haapala will leave his own stamp on the forthcoming ARS17 exhibition. The programme will be published later in the Autumn, but he has agreed to offer a brief glimpse into the forthcoming exhibition.

Leevi Haapala, the curator, with “Untitled” (Public Opinion) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, 1991; FULL HOUSE exhibition, Kiasma. Photo: Finnish National Gallery/Pirje Mykkänen.

“On the centennial year of Finnish independence, our idea is to offer something else, in other words a topical and international exhibition. We want to look to the future rather than one hundred years into the past. I see contemporary art and artists as certain kinds of fortune tellers. As they describe this time, they also mirror our thoughts about the future. We will be presenting the work of some 30-40 young and international artists. By ARS17 Kiasma will look like the art exhibition of my dreams.”

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