The Mänttä Art Festival's new curator, Veikko Halmetoja. (Photo: Elissa Määttänen.)
Art Festival has selected gallery owner, art critic and curator
Veikko Halmetoja (b. 1977) as the curator and artistic director of
its 2018 exhibition.
Veikko Halmetoja is an all-round expert on visual arts, not least because he spent his childhood and youth in Mänttä. He first became involved with the Art Festival as an 18-year-old intern in 1995, when the exhibition venues included an entire block of flats in the Mänttä Town Centre. Last summer, at the age of 39, Halmetoja himself got to curate an exhibition set in a condemned block of flats in Mäntyharju.
I have always been more of a hands-on than a
scholarly type. This might be due to my past in Mänttä. I have
learnt that ultimately, art workers always have to sink their hands
into clay, Halmetoja reflects.
He thinks that exhibitions aren't curated in study rooms, but rather by living among the artists and their works and experiencing the artworks first-hand in the exhibition space.
Empowering, Experiential Art
– In art, I prefer to seek experiences that get under your skin rather than an intellectual challenge.
promises the XXIII Mänttä Art Festival to be an exhibition both
down-to-earth and tangible, featuring a wide variety of artists and
– I want this exhibition to be an integrative and empowering experience.
The paths of the Art Festival and Veikko Halmetoja have run parallel for quite a while and crossed on several occasions. During 2007–2010, he even served as the Art Festival's Executive Director.
summer of 2018 will mark the 25th anniversary of the first Mänttä
Art Festival. Halmetoja is excited to take on the challenge.
– I feel that they were curious to see what kind of an exhibition could be curated by someone who knows every inch of Pekilo, the Art Festival's main venue.
Exhibition-wise, year 2017 has been
quite hectic for Veikko Halmetoja. His schedule has included both
smaller solo exhibitions and extensive group exhibitions.
– Apart from the block of flats in Mäntyharju, some of the more laborious projects have included Bridge at Helsinki's Virka Gallery, an exhibition delving into the intertwining national identities of Finland and Estonia. Another big project was ITEpäisyys which opened in Kokkola and travelled to Joensuu. The exhibition harmoniously combined contemporary art, outsider art and contemporary folk art under one roof.
For the coming year, Veikko Halmetoja has been clearing his schedule. He has refused offers to curate other group exhibitions and promises to focus solely on Mänttä Art Festival.
– I have seen every Mänttä Art Festival exhibition from the very first edition of 1993, most of them numerous times. My goal is to curate an exhibition intertwining all the ideas invoked by my visits to the Art Festival exhibitions during all these years.
Veikko Halmetoja's earlier projects include curating the exhibitions The Snowball Effect 3 (Kemi Art Museum & Aine Art Museum, 2016), The Sin (Serlachius Museum Gösta, Mänttä, 2014) and the 5th Triennial of Pirkanmaa (Tampere, 2012). He has written art reviews for newspapers Aamulehti in 2002–2007 and Helsingin Sanomat in 2010–2014. A popular lecturer, he has also worked as the editor of the art magazine 1/2, written extensively about visual arts for various publications and, since 2010, served as the publicist for Kajaani Poetry Week. Veikko Halmetoja is also the artistic director of ARTag Gallery in Helsinki.
Mänttä Art Festival has been organized by its founding association 'Mänttä Art Lovers' since 1993, first as a biennial and, since 1999, annually. The event was recently awarded the prestigious Finland Prize, recognizing its long-standing work in the field of Finnish contemporary art. Since 2002, the main exhibition venue has been Pekilo, a former animal feed refinery next to Mänttä's tallest chimney-stack.