case palm tree
How is it possible that a person who is classified as a light artist in Finland and who is excluded from the appreciation of art circles is doing excellently in the world? Painter Juhani Palmu, who has established good gallery relationships in Europe, Japan and the United States, knows the answer.
When it comes to the Palmu phenomenon, the guinea fowls and roosters of art are strangely on the same page: hardly any of them appreciate Juhani Palmu's art. In the travel service of the world's best visual artists - the restaurant Kosmos - the wise know: "That Palmu is zero. Little Vionoja, a barn painter. That guy won't last in the top ten of art." Since the 1970s, Juhani Palmu has pained his very own list with his landscape and courtyard paintings from Ostrobothnia. In the 80s, when the elite of modernism occupied the back row of the best galleries in Helsinki, Palmu spread his folk art all over Finland within the reach of the entire nation. The modernists sold well, but lost to Palmu. For several years, Palmu was the painter who paid the most taxes in the country. The money came in such a way that it forced the knees. Of course, Palmu was not accepted as a member of the industry's professional organization.
With the collapse of the price level of contemporary art in Finland, the death of galleries and the prolongation of the world conquest of Finnish art, Juhani Palmu's departure hurts in every respect. Having moved to Germany, Palmu has created considerable gallery relationships in Central Europe, Japan and the United States in a couple of years, and without any kind of art export support. Like the flow of goods barges on the Rhine, Palmu's art sells all over the world and in Finland, and the artist himself does not always know where he would sit among his five walruses. Palmu's permanent galleries in Paris, Tokyo, Beverly Hills and elsewhere are not trendy places set up with a bang, but solid, long-term quality galleries.
In these places, Palmutaide, which has been denounced by Finnish art circles, is constantly on display alongside the works of leading contemporary artists such as Frank Stella. With what muscles such heartbreaking injustice? The answer had to be sought from the legendary Bernheim Jeune gallery in Paris, where the Palmu boom began in the winter of 1986.
The most insulting to Finland's much better artists was that Palmu lived all the time in his base at the Ritz in Paris. The staff who most recently served the Hemingways and Picassos at the Ritz should notice that this is not the best from Finland. But even here, Palmu received the treatment that belongs to top performers.
"Michel Dauberville - you are a gallerist in the fifth generation, your Galleria Bernheim Jeune is one of the most prestigious in France. Your gallery has discovered numerous masters, including Vincent van Gogh. How on earth did you take Juhani Palmu as your regular artist?"
"Why not? Juhani Palmu is a good painter. His world of subjects is refreshingly fresh and his use of colors is excellent. We like his work."
But I can list you (and I will list) 15 much higher-class Finnish artists who deserve an international breakthrough!
"Certainly they are high-class. But how do they plan their breakthrough? Do they talk about it in Finland? Oh - and are they modernists? Then it's very difficult. "There are already a lot of good modernists in the world. It's hard to be a discovery among them - come from Finland or elsewhere. Modernism has already copied its master quite closely. Gallerists are primarily interested in originality. How an artist's work lasts without mainstream support. That's why we took Palmu. He is not the best in the world, but an individual."
What about artist status! Juhani Palmu is not appreciated in his home country. He has not been awarded with grants or state awards. Hasn't even been taken care of as a member of his own professional organization. In Finland, this is important.
"Then Palmu is your van Gogh". Dauberville laughs. "In any case, a fashion outsider. In France, the internal opinion of one country has no meaning. We all know very well how favorite lists are created. Of course, on merit, but too often as favors of a friend. As the president of the gallery association of my country, I feel this cultural terrorism. Art is harmonized, the chosen ones are exalted. But in the long run only those who walk their own path retain their dignity."
"Juhani Palmu was not disturbed by his unknownness. Even nationality ceased to matter when we saw his work. The works sold themselves to us. We got the feeling that there has been something new here for a long time. And when the image lasted, we offered Palmu the opportunity for an exhibition."
7.2.1992 Suomen Kuvalehti