New Kiasma chief says climate change is the biggest challenge

Kiira Miesmaa. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen.

The new director of Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Finland has said that ensuring a sustainable future and countering climate change should be the driving force for museums.

Kiira Miesmaa, who takes the new job this month, says that while she believes in seeing art physically, ‘it’s vital to do so with as small a carbon footprint as possible.’

Miesmaa was previously the CEO of the commercial Galerie Forsblom in Helsinki, which represents artists including Ai Weiwei, Kaarina Kaikkonen and Julian Schnabel. She said her other key responsibility for the new job was ensuring freedom of expression against political interference. Reflecting that Finland regularly sits in the top five of artistic and press freedom indexes, Miesmaa says: ‘I’m doing my part to help keep it that way. I see Kiasma as a place where different voices can safely be heard.’

The museum was at the centre of a five-month boycott last year by artists over its connection to patron and collector Chaim ‘Poju’ Zabludowicz. Zabludowicz runs the London-based investment company Tamares, and is the son of Shlomo Zabludowicz, who made his fortune on profits from negotiating arms deals between Finland and Israel. Tamares has previously invested in two companies, Knafaim Holdings and Palantir Technologies, both with business ties to Israeli security forces. 

Following the boycott, Kiasma severed ties with the Kiasma Support Foundation, which Zabludowicz cofounded, and announced new guidelines regarding ethical funding. Then museum director Leevi Haapala resigned from the foundation’s board. The following December, Haapla left the institution completely, taking the position of dean of the Academy of Fine Arts art school.

Miesmaa says that private funding remains central to the museum’s budget but institutions ‘will have to assess what they can do in the future and where to cut back so that the statutory responsibilities for museums are still met.’

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