Cultural Heritage: Making History for the Future II

Cultural Heritage: Making History for the Future II

Session chairs:

Katarina Wadstein MacLeod, PhD, Lecturer, Dept. of Art history, Södertörn University

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Charlotte Bydler, PhD, Lecturer, Dept. of Art history and Research leader, Centre for Baltic and East European Studies, Södertörn University

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Nordic Co-operation: The Antiques dealer Henryk Bukowski as the “official purveyor” of Finnish museums

Hanne Selkokari, PhD, Coordinator, Dept. of Art History, University of Helsinki, Finland

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I aim to combine Swedish and Finnish research on Henryk Bukowski’s significance for Nordic museum collections. The focus of this paper is formed by the operations of Bukowski, previously understood as a background figure with respect to professional collections, regarding business, as an individual, and as an “institution”. The study combines a biographical perspective on art collecting and a museological discussion of opportunities created by the new institution of art auctions in the Nordic countries. I will show how Bukowski’s work interconnected nationally and internationally, how he overstepped cultural borders and became part of the Finnish national project. Purchasing and selling art, artefacts and art collections in late 19th-century Stockholm, he created national history for Finland.

The art and antiques dealer Henryk Bukowski (1839-1900) was a central figure for both private art collectors and museums. A Polish-born patriot exiled from Poland, Bukowski found a new homeland in Sweden and established a successful auction house for antiques and art in Stockholm in 1870. Bukowski’s firm was not only a quality auction house, but also an art institution with clientele that has been studied partly in relation to leading Swedish private collectors (Christian Hammer, Christoffer Eichhorn and Wilhelmina von Hallwyl). Bukowski’s professional correspondence points to a varied clientele of businessmen with a passion for collecting, members of the nobility and the Swedish royal family, the bourgeoisie, civil servants and persons influential in the affairs of museums (Artur Hazelius). Towards the end of the century, Bukowski established good contacts with private collectors in Finland, such as H. F. Antell and Paul Sinebrychoff, and with Finnish institutions that acquired artworks and objects. As a skilled businessman, adept at networking rather than an art expert, Bukowski was perhaps the most influential person outside Finland to help museums and private homes develop their collections. Among Finnish art collectors, professor and Counsellor of State Eliel Aspelin-Haapkylä, for example, acquired a wide-ranging collection of portraits, miniatures and an extensive collection of paintings by Alexander Lauréus via Bukowski. Through auctions arranged by Bukowski in the 1890s, the State Historical Museum (present-day National Museum of Finland) obtained portraits of Swedish rulers and part of the large Wadström collection of prints (16,000 items). These entities cherished by Swedish collectors have helped reinforce “Finnish identity” in Finnish museum collections.


The Negative Heritage in the History Culture of Finnish Art History

Renja Suominen-Kokkonen, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Senior Lecturer in Art History, University of Helsinki, Finland

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In February 2011, the Finnish public witnessed unique series of events in which an icon stolen in the previous summer from the Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral, one of Helsinki’s main churches, was found and returned to the congregation. The convicted thief had felt remorse and revealed where he had hidden the icon.  These events amazed the public, while the Orthodox congregation regarded them as a miracle. Robbed of its votive gifts, the returned icon, a simple paper print glued on panel, hardly matched the conventional idea of a valuable object.

The above dramatic events can also be considered at the more general level of how the Finnish cultural heritage has been understood historically, and with what consequences, and the effect of this background on the present. In my paper, I discuss the role of the ecclesiastical architecture and material culture of the Orthodox Church of Finland in defining national culture. I explore in both historical and theoretical terms my claim that in Finland the cultural heritage of the Orthodox Church was for a long while defined as something negative and alien, with documentation, research and official protection launched at a late stage and in a highly uncoordinated manner.

Approaching the Orthodox culture of Finland from the perspective of national history in the 20th century provide a good idea of what interested, for example, art dealers and art historians, and at what stages. Of further interest are the related, and highly layered, political problematic and the policies of Finnish museums. One of the main considerations here is how cultural plurality has been noted when maintaining the national heritage and how we should react to a dissonant heritage that does not conform to prevailing political, cultural and religious norms of majority. The cultural heritage is not something once lost and then found, but instead the result of active processes of choice at a given present moment.


Rethinking National Heritage in Poland after 1989

Andrzej Szczerski, PhD, Professor and Director of Postgraduate Curatorial Studies at the Institute of Art History, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland


With the end of communism in 1989, a process of rethinking national culture started in Poland. For the first time since the end of the World War II, this debate could be held without state censorship. Several new museums dedicated to Polish culture and history have been founded. They are mainly initiatives of the government, but also of local authorities and private foundations.

A first group consists of museums dedicated to recent history, that fell into oblivion under communist regime. The most famous is the Museum of Warsaw Uprising, opened in 2004, commemorating the underground Home Army revolt against Nazi Germany in 1944. Communist authorities presented it as a worthless sacrifice, in order to diminish its largely anti-Soviet organizers. The museum presents the event as historical, but also as a cornerstone of contemporary national identity. In 2013 the Museum of the History of Polish Jews will open in Warsaw, in the area of the former WWII Jewish ghetto. The museum will honour the Holocaust victims and the importance of Jewish history and culture in Poland. The place of Jewish artists in the history of Polish art will be duly recognized. In the communist epoch, the Jewish heritage in Poland was kept out of the public sphere, and only after 1989 could it be studied and properly appreciated. Other museums, still under construction, define new fields of historical knowledge to be incorporated into contemporary national identity. The Museum of Polish History in Warsaw already runs a branch in Krakow, dedicated to history of communist rule 1945-89 and will rewrite Polish history. The Museum of the World War II in Gdańsk will present Polish participation in the war and its consequences for the nation, and the European Center of “Solidarity” in Gdańsk, opening in 2013, will analyse the history of the “Solidarity” workers’ union and its role in the demise of communism in Europe.

A second group of new institutions is formed by museums of contemporary art. In 2011, the first MOCAK opened in Kraków, and others are under construction in Wrocław and Warsaw. Currently they work on temporary exhibitions, but permanent collections will aim to recover the history of Polish post-1945 art. Their main reference point is modernism and contemporary art but also reinterpretations of Polish traditions such as romanticism. The museums signal contemporary art’s growing importance for Polish national identity. Significantly, no new museums dedicated to earlier periods are planned; the country looks for roots in cultural heritage from the recent past.

The Polish case shows the importance of the “now” for definitions of national identity and heritage. In today’s Polish museums there is a need to reflect on the totalitarian past, its consequences and its place in national history. The importance of contemporary art, an attribute of modern society, is seen as part of the transition to a modern and democratic world. While protecting its past, Poland of today is especially interested in contemporary development; perceived as the foundation of a new national culture. Although not unproblematic, this process shows to what extent the shift from a totalitarian system into democracy can result in appreciation of modernity and its incorporation into national identity.


The End of a National Heritage? Constructing heritage in the age of Retroscape

Henrik Widmark, PhD, Researcher and Research strategist, Dept. of Art history, Uppsala University, Sweden

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National Heritage is constructed through a process of canonisation and legitimation. This paper argues that the time span between production and practical use of an artefact until its classification as cultural heritage is becoming shorter. During the last decades, a vast number of new objects and sites related to popular culture have been legitimized or, to use the language of canonisation, beatified: taking the first steps to be legitimized and accepted as part of a national or global heritage. The process of inscribing modern popular culture, and what used to be counter culture, can be understood as part of the commercial logic of modern heritage tourism to the sites such as the home of John Lennon, protected by the National Trust, or the Zebra crossing at the Abbey Road studios. In 2010, the latter became a first grade II listed non-building in the United Kingdom – and thus acquired legal status as National heritage.

Furthermore, objects related to modern popular culture have been incorporated into collections of national art and culture museums, and thus destined to be part of the National heritage. One example discussed in this paper is Jamie Reid’s art, originally produced as promotional material for the Sex Pistols’ singles, tours and album. Today, Reid’s work is part of the Tate Museum collection and Victoria and Albert museum in the United Kingdom. In the last years these items have been exhibited for instance in the exhibition The Queen: Art & Image at the Scottish National Gallery. The same line of prints and objects are also sold in galleries and auction houses such as Sotheby’s.

Both the example of the national heritage sites and the objects associated with popular culture show a consumer and tourist culture defining a future heritage. When cultural heritage is defined within groups ready to consume a specific cultural expression, national heritage becomes a personal heritage disguised as a national interest. To further blur the concepts, popular culture as a phenomenon is global in its ideal expression; formed by an international market. However, if we are to accept that heritage is legitimised according to the same statutes regardless whether it is a 17th-century painting, a royal castle, or an original poster from a 1977 tour of the Sex Pistols, the immediate past can be defined as heritage. History and heritage become fragmented in as many pasts as there are musical genres – heritage in itself is being disputed.

This paper has as its main scope to scrutinise the impact of a modern retro culture on the idea of heritage. It also examines the economically defined narratives that separate popular culture from popular culture heritage. Thus I hope to contribute to the discussion of market impact on heritage. Finally I question if national heritage in itself is liable in a fragmented world, where as David Lowenthal wrote fifteen years ago “never before have so many been so engaged with so many pasts”. (Lowenthal 1998)