Pro Artibus Foundation was established in 1989 on the initiative of the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland. Its original remit was to manage and expand the latter’s art collection. Over its 30 years, Pro Artibus’ operations have expanded and are nowadays highly diverse. It has two exhibition spaces: Gallery Elverket in Ekenäs and Sinne in Helsinki. It mounts exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, hosts an artist’s residency in Ekenäs, puts on a wide-ranging programme of events for the public, and runs public-art projects. The Foundation supports the work of visual artists: it does not charge rent for its exhibition spaces, and endeavours to remunerate artists appropriately for their work. In so doing, the Foundation seeks to promote the creation of new, ethical exhibition practices in Finland.
The collection is a diverse, multi-layered selection of modern and contemporary art. It is the world’s only art collection to specifically focus on Finnish-Swedish artists, and on Finnish-Swedishness and the Swedish language in Finland. The collection highlights both the national and the local. For its size, it holds works by a great many artists. The collection reflects the diversity of the minority, and its significance lies specifically in the way it offers a Finnish-Swedish perspective on art history, and especially on contemporary art. The collection is a nationally and internationally important example of how a minority can define itself and pursue its own cultural aspirations. Some 60% of the works are on deposit in non-profit, bilingual or Swedish-language institutions in Finland. The collection currently comprises 1300 works, with 20 or so works added each year.
Pro Artibus Foundation’s collection has multiple historical strata, including the core collection of 222 works belonging to its founder, the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, and several donated collections (Eva Törnwall-Collin, Stig Nyström, Yngve Bäck). It also includes public works, works made on artist’s residencies, self-portraits, design objects, and portraits of leaders of the Swedish People’s Party, to which Pro Artibus Foundation has been affiliated since 2019.