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Tuija Peltomaa

Born October 9, 1965, Sotkamo

MA (Art History) 1996, University of Helsinki

Writer, columnist, lecturer
Hourly teacher at Aalto University 2013–
Antiques expert on Antiques TV programme 1997–2014
Auction house work at Hagelstam Auctions 1996–2013
Teacher at the School of Arts and Design 1993–2007
Museum guide 1992–6 (Ateneum Art Museum, Modern Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki Kunsthalle, etc.)

Photo: Tuija Peltomaa
Written by Tero Juutilainen
Translated by Joe McVeigh

Change in Consumer Culture

While working at an auction house Tuija Peltomaa came into contact with all manner of items. In a busy year more than 10,000 items could pass through her hands. The auction world has remained foreign to the general public partly because of the environment it, as well as the culture of collecting in general, has created. However, owing to the advent of reality television the auction scene has grown more familiar.

Huutokauppakeisari (‘Auction Master’) is my favourite auction program on Finnish television. The show focuses on items and prices that are relevant to the majority of Finns and not just to the elite. That’s realism. The host is a fun and easy-going guy, at times very considerate. When he bought some items from celebrities I remember thinking he was overpaying, that he was fleecing himself.’

There has been a change in traditional auctions: nowadays in addition to traditional antiques, memorabilia is also in demand. These include paraphernalia related to movies and music, toys, comic books and other specialised collector’s items. Peltomaa knows the reason why.

‘In some way it may simply be the result of people noticing that items like these can bring in a lot of money, but one of the most important things is the memories and experiences that are attached to them. Someone who has never seen a Gustavian secretaire is unlikely to suddenly desire one. But if someone has looked at pictures with a View-Master, played with Barbies or read a particular comic book then of course they are going to feel a strong connection to them later on. The times and culture change, and that’s how it’s supposed to be.’

Reuse is also making a comeback. Peltomaa is an avid recycler herself and is always trying to find some new use for old and unneeded items that can be very different from their original purpose. Inheritance too is no longer handled like it has been in the past when even the bedsheets were mentioned in the testament.

– Working amon items has brought me to a wonderland of surprises, the like of which I could not even imagine as a young Art Historian. Photo of the Kurtna junk market (rompetori) in Estonia, by Tuija Peltomaa.​
– Working amon items has brought me to a wonderland of surprises, the like of which I could not even imagine as a young Art Historian. Photo of the Kurtna junk market (rompetori) in Estonia, by Tuija Peltomaa.​

‘Recycling, fixing, looking for new uses for old or obsolete items, it’s all clearly coming back in style. The economy may have its part to play in this development, but perhaps also a new attitude towards material goods, in particular among the young consumers. There is a prudent awareness that a surprising number of items can be turned into money instead of simply having to be thrown away.’

Peltomaa admits to being particularly fond of old handmade goods. This is partly due to her having grown up appreciating craftsmanship, but also because she considers collecting arts and antiques to be an inspiring hobby. Her home is still decorated for everyday life, and for instance her modernist couch is designed for comfort.

‘Despite my education I am a real horror to the typical museum crowd, as our wine glasses from the turn of the 19th century are in regular use a couple times a year. Sometimes when we have guests over and we bring out a bottle of bubbly they wonder should they be handling the glasses since they might drop them. I just think that if they break then they break. After all, this is exactly what they were made for. I don’t want to keep the things I own inside glass cabinets, removed from the rest of our life. I want them to live with us like they have lived through the joys and sorrows of past generations long before we ever came along.’

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