Artist's Association of Finland 160 years

In 2024, the Artists’ Association of Finland will celebrate its centenary year in a forward-looking spirit, highlighting the progress made in improving the professional conditions of visual artists. The Artists’ Association of Finland has been building the future of artists for 160 years.

Founded in 1864, the Artists’ Association of Finland is one of the oldest cultural associations still in operation in Finland.

The Association celebrates its 160th anniversary with communications and events. Throughout the year, the website and social media channels will publish historical stories about the Artists' Association's history and advocacy achievements. The articles will cover topics such as artists' workspace issues, artist grants and exhibition formats from different decades.

The 160th anniversary will be celebrated later in the spring. The date and venue will be announced closer to the event. To mark the centenary, the visual identity of the Artists' Web Magazine, published by the Finnish Artists' Association, will also be redesigned during the spring.

Artists are the lifeblood of regenerative art

The Artists’ Association of Finland wants to look to the future as it celebrates its 160th anniversary. Throughout the ages, artists have been central to shaping ideas about the future. Amid the many upheavals shaping the world rapidly, artists' ability to look critically and courageously into the future is particularly important. Through their work, artists are building a better society.

The year will therefore highlight artists' thoughts on art and the future of the artistic profession. Artists are and have always been the lifeblood of regenerative art – in the past, present and future.

Cultural politics since the 19th century

Konstnärsgillet i Finland, the Artists' Association of Finland, was founded in the Seurahuone restaurant, building that nowadays is known as Helsinki City Hall, on 3 May 1864. The first honorary member was the poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg, and his birthday on 5 February was made the Association’s anniversary. Initially, the Association brought together artists from all disciplines, but towards the end of the 19th century the Association began to focus on the interests of visual artists.

Already in the 19th century, the Association set up its own pension fund, took its first initiatives in the field of artists' policy and organised its first art exhibitions. In the early decades of the 20th century, the Association printed the first artists' magazine to introduce Finnish artists, proposed additional state pensions for artists and took the initiative in building the Kunsthalle Helsinki.

After the wars, the Association was active in acquiring the first foreign residencies, which opened Finnish artists a window into Europe. In the 1970s, the Association engaged in a lively debate on artists' salaries, which led to the creation of the Provincial Artists' System. In the 1990s, the Association was instrumental in introducing public display grants.

In the early 2000s, the Artists' Association influenced the reform of the pension and social security system for visual arts grant holders, which no longer treated artists as entrepreneurs for unemployment benefit purposes. The promotion of public art and the 1 % principle has also been a prominent theme, resulting in an increase in public art in Finland and an increase in artists' income from their artistic work. The most recent significant step in the Association’s history is the inauguration of the exhibition fee scheme.

Throughout the history of the Artists' Association of Finland, a number of other organisations have emerged within the Association, which have become independent organisations in their own right to carry out important work in the field of art. Over the course of its history, the Association has been involved in the founding of several institutions in the field of visual arts, such as Taide magazine, Kuvasto ry and Frame Finland.