Collectors and Collections, Design Museum’s main exhibition of the season, presents for the first time in Finland private collections of design that would normally not be accessible to the public. With reference to these collections the exhibition asks how design is collected, how private collections come about and why a design object can become a coveted collectible. On display are both valuable collections of design objects and a large selection of utility items. The exhibits are mostly modern Finnish design.
This exhibition at Design Museum is the first opportunity in Finland to explore the world of design collectors. Taking selected collectors as examples, it addresses collecting as a phenomenon.
‘The museum serves as a platform for sharing the collector experience, which often includes a strong emotional charge. Through the collected objects and interviews with the collectors we tell about the special personality of collectors and the motives of collecting’, explains curator Harry Kivilinna of Design Museum in describing the background of the exhibition.
Valued objects from well-known collectors
One of Finland’s best-known collectors in this field is businessman and commercial counselor Kyösti Kakkonen whose design collection numbers almost 10,000 items. Kakkonen’s goal has been to keep the finest works of Finnish design in the country and to arrange the return of items that have gone abroad. The exhibition features a unique selection from Kakkonen’s collection, including works in design by Gunnel Nyman.
Collectors and Collections also introduces audiences for the first time to the design collection of the Finnish-born Chaim “Poju” Zabludowicz and his British wife Anita. Their collection includes work by leading Finnish designers, of which a selection of objects designed by Alvar Aalto will be on show in the exhibition.
The exhibition also features the collections of Tuomas Sopanen, glass collector Jyrki Kippola and Pirkko Paananen, who has a large collection of works in glass art by Oiva Toikka. A foreign addition to the exhibition is the collection of the Arabia factory’s Fennia tableware of the early 20th century belonging to the Finnish-American couple Liisa and John Herweg. The Herwegs have collected the Arabia factory’s ceramics for over 40 years, mostly in the United States.
Surprising collections of household objects also on show
’Valuable items are only a small area of collecting’, says curator Kivilinna and goes on to note: ‘The collecting of everyday objects has become a popular pastime because almost anyone in Finland can start a collection of the utility of glassware from the mid-20th century, Moomin mugs or Arabia tableware.’
The Moomin theme is also approached in the exhibition by presenting alongside the Moomin mugs the Moomin figurines made by Atelier Fauni and ceramicist Leo Tykkyläinen in the 1950s.
Collectors Virve and Heikki Mattila have lent to the exhibition 300 jugs made by the Arabia factory from their collection of over 1,200 Arabia jugs and pourers.
The youngest collector presented in the exhibition is 27-year-old Iivari Viilomaa, whose unbelievable finds from flea markets have recently aroused attention in social media. Viilomaa has concentrated in particular on colored glass items designed by Kaj Franck and Saara Hopea in the 1950s. Also on show from his collection are the Nuutajärvi glassworks’ sales packages from the 1950s and 1960s.
Among the most surprising collectibles on display are some thirty running shoes and trainers made by the Karhu company, ranging from its classic waffle-sole models to rarities.
Collectors and Collections also discusses in frank terms the negative aspect of collection, namely art forgeries. It features a forged version of Timo Sarpaneva’s Kayak glass sculpture on loan from the Crime Museum of the Finnish Police. The fake Kayak is displayed alongside a genuine version from the collections of the Design Museum.
The Collector’s ABC is a section of the exhibition telling viewers of what affects the collectible value of objects and what should be taken into account when acquiring items for one’s own collections. Design Museum’s own collections are also presented alongside the private collections.
‘The exhibition reveals that collectors have various motives for acquiring material for their collections. Starting points can include the rarity, quality, and value of a piece. For some people, the most important thing is to acquire the most comprehensive collection possible of the output of a given manufacturer or designer. Common to all collectors is a passion and love for collecting and the pleasure that is gained from acquiring the desired object for one’s own collection’, says Kivilinna.
The exhibition architecture is by Aleksi Kuokka of the AIVAN design agency.
Collectors and Collections will include a wide range of additional events. Soon after the opening, the museum will hold a Design Evening on the exhibition theme from 4 to 8 p.m. on 29 October, with free admission and there will be an event day for the public on 16 November including the identification of objects and a programme focusing on collecting. For continuous updates on the additional programme of the exhibition, see https://www.designmuseum.fi/fi/events/poimi-paivamaarat-talteen-kerailijoita-kokoelmia-ja-tapahtumia/
Design Museum is a national specialist museum of Finnish design. It researches, collects, records, documents and displays design in Finland and in international touring exhibitions.
Design Museum Helsinki (street address)
Korkeavuorenkatu 23, 00130 Helsinki, Finland.
Summer season: 1 June – 31 August
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Winter season: 1 September – 31 May.
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Wed. – Sun. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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Joint entrance ticket to Design Museum and the Museum of Finnish Architecture €12.