Leevi Haapala

Leevi Haapala. Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma / The Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki, Finland. Photo: Pirje Mykkanen

Leevi Haapala. Former Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma / The Finnish National Gallery. Dean, Academy of Fine Arts, University of Arts, Helsinki, Finland

Years professionally involved in the contemporary art museum field: 25 years.

Have you served on another board or organization similar to CIMAM? Yes

If so, where and how long have you served? Please see the board memberships below at the bio.

Short bio. Describe also your involvement with CIMAM and the museum community:

Leevi Haapala, Ph.D., served as Museum Director at Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art / The Finnish National Gallery in Helsinki from 2015 to 2024. He joined Kiasma as an institutional member of CIMAM in 2015. He has been since that participating actively in each annual conference together with the museum’s two Chief Curators. Kiasma also co-hosted a post-tour to Finland after the annual conference in Stockholm in 2018. One of the panelists in the CIMAM's Rapid Response online webinar 'How are Contemporary Art Museums and their Stakeholders Dealing with a Fluid Situation?` in September 2020.

Haapala is also a curator, art writer, and researcher of contemporary art. He has worked earlier as a Praxis Professor, Exhibition Studies, MA Program in Academy of Fine Arts, University of Arts, Helsinki 2014-15; a Curator and Deputy Chief Curator for Collections in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Kiasma, Helsinki (2007-2014) and a researcher at the Central Art Archives in Finnish National Gallery (1997-2003).

Haapala made his doctoral thesis on moving image and installation art from a psychoanalytic perspective, The Unconscious in Contemporary Art. The Gaze, Voice and Time in Finnish Contemporary Art at the Turn of the Millennium. Institute for Art Research, Art History, University of Helsinki, 2011. He studied Directors’ Study Program for Museum Field, Manage Institute of Finland & Finnish Museums Association in 2014-2016 and Leadership Training for Sustainable Economic Policy course at The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, Helsinki in 2020-2021.

Haapala is a member of the management team at the Finnish National Gallery and a member of the Kiasma Support Foundation since 2015, and also a member of the editorial team at the FNG Research online publication. He is a board member of the University of Arts (consisting of the Academy of Fine Arts, Sibelius Academy, and Theatre Academy), Helsinki 2022-2025, a board member of Design Museum Foundation, Helsinki in 2016-2022, and a board member at Kuntsi Art Foundation since 2021. He is a member of the selection board for the Young Artist of the Year Prize at Tampere Art Museum since 2012 and a member of the selection board for Ars Fennica Award since 2016.

He was a board member of Pro Arte Foundation and an expert team at IHME Contemporary Art Festival in Helsinki 2009-2019.

Solo exhibitions at Kiasma during the time of his leadership in 2015-2022: Mona Hatoum, Ernesto Neto, Jani Ruscica, Grayson Perry, Vladislav Mamysev-Monroe, Shoplifter aka Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, Pilvi Takala, Torbjørn Rødland, Ragnar Kjartansson, Mika Vainio, Ed Atkins, Doug Aitken, and Markus Copper, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, Tom of Finland and Dineo Seshee Bopape to be followed in 2022-23, and two international survey shows: ARS17 ‘Hello World!’ and ARS22 ‘Living Encounters’.

Motivation Statement: How can you contribute to CIMAM's mission and strategic goals by being a Member of the Board? (i.e strategy, membership, fundraising, governance, network in strategic regions, availability, knowledge or skills in a specific area):

I share the goals and visions with CIMAM to contribute to local and global contemporary art networks in museums, collections, and archives in which I have worked in numerous roles since mid-90s. Strategy processes are familiar from the Finnish National Gallery, where we currently renew our strategy for the years 2023-30 to be able to perform three sister museums' relevance and social engagement to our communities and visitors. Our new strategy will strengthen three key factors: digital online presence of art collections, sustainable museum activities and operations on every level and to be even more present to our audiences, meaning to be approachable, active, and inclusive within our programming and ways of communicating.

My special contribution as a museum director is national and international visual and performative art programs in large and services for our targeted customers together with our management and curatorial teams. Also building and commissioning a multifaceted contemporary art collection is one of my expertise in which I share a passion together with our collection team. As part of our customer oriented museum experience, we have renewed our membership program from friends’ association to museum club to activate frequent customers and to engage them in our different activities like guided tours, artist and curator talks, workshops, and theatre performances and also to activate museum shop sales to benefit the museum. Also, we have renewed our equality plan for our staff, audiences, program and collections and also recently published safer space instructions also to our visitors.

From the governance perspective, we have developed fundraising as an integrated part of collaborations with different supportive bodies like foundations and corporate entities. I have several years of governance experience from state-supported entities like mid-scale and large museums and from a university and also privately funded organizations like foundations and museums, and organization and collaboration models between them.

My active networks are Nordic, like the Nordic Board at Nordic Pavilion in the Biennale di Venezia, and global at the same time from CIMAM colleagues to collaborations and networks with other modern and contemporary art museums and institutions, museum and independent curators, artists, and collectors and also support foundations, art institutions, and art fairs.

Describe briefly the expectations of your involvement as a CIMAM Board member and how you envision CIMAM's priorities in the next years:

CIMAM’s priorities after the pandemic years will be how to strengthen contemporary art museums’ ethical and operational models and standards globally and still recognize regional characteristics. Also taking networking on a practical level so that art professionals can learn from each other and benchmark projects, good governance, and best practices to be incorporated into daily museum activities.

And one of our time's biggest challenges is how to make museum activities in large ecologically, socially, and culturally sustainable in times of ecological and social crises.

We should develop our thinking and understanding of these concerns in every level of museum practices from good governance to management skills, and from curatorial practices to ways of mediating to make all this develop. And also we as museum professionals should see what roles modern and contemporary art and their impactful contents should play in these processes to provide new thinking and perspectives not only to us but also to our audiences and societies in which we build and belong.