Art critic and journalist Timo Valjakka.
Timo Valjakka Photographer Jouko Vatanen

Timo Valjakka has been an art critic since the 1980s. His writings have been published in both Finnish and international newspapers and magazines. Valjakka served as the editor for the Nordic art magazine BECAUSE in 1990-94. He has written and edited numerous books as well as exhibition catalogs for several artists including Kari Huhtamo, Reijo Hukkanen, Marika Makela, Paul Osipow and Rafael Wardi.

Timo Valjakka is also a respected curator. He has carried out many Finnish and international modern and contemporary art exhibitions including Christian Boltanski and Anish Kapoor exhibitions at Kunsthalle Helsinki (1999 and 2001), Art & Language and Tor Arne exhibitions at EMMA Espoo (2009 and 2011), Juhana Blomstedt's retrospective exhibition at the Tennispalatsi Art Museum (2007) and The Two Faces of Modernism at the Amos Anderson Art Museum, (2009). Valjakka was the curator for the Nordic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1995.

Timo Valjakka directed the Kunsthalle Helsinki, 1994-2001 and the Finnish Institute in London, 2001-2005.

Day in, Day out - Perspectives on the Critic’s Work. Relatio artis -seminar 26.5.2011

Art critic Timo Valjakka’s speech Day in, Day out - Perspectives on the Critic’s Work focused on the crisis situation in the field of art criticism. What is the raison-d’être of critics and criticism and are they really needed in a world where the art market largely determines the value of art and social media gives everyone the opportunity to participate in debate? Valjakka also explored the meaning of newspaper criticism outside the world of art as a form of journalism and literary genre.

The key question is simple: Why, to whom and how to write art criticism? Before art critic was the gatekeeper and specifier of quality and meaning. The emergence of commercial art market in the 1980s was followed by not only changes but outright crisis in the field of art criticism. As the galleries and private collectors began to compete for the artists and their works, the art market began to define the artistic value and importance. When the journey from artist’s studio to collections was sped up, critics fell by the wayside and the quality of the work was no longer put to the test by the contemporaries. A work could literally end up in museum collections when the paint was still wet! However according to Timo Valjakka work of art needs to be seen and interpreted in order to exist. It is as if it will be complete only when spoken about and compared to other works.

Taidekriitikko ja toimittaja Timo Valjakka on kirjoittanut taidekritiikkiä 1980-luvulta lähtien. Hänen kirjoituksiaan on julkaistu suomalaisten sanoma- ja aikakauslehtien ohella alan kansainvälisissä julkaisuissa.
Modernin kahdet kasvot (The Two Faces of Modernism) - Paul Osipow - Heavy Light

According to Timo Valjakka the critic does not define art, artists do. He also does not define what art is right and wrong. Furthermore “the critic should serve its readers and not try to acquire positions in the art world. He should only be interested in writing, not in power or authority. He should strive to translate his personal experience of a work of art in words so well and honestly as he can. Every idea of power and authority includes pre-determined ideas about what art must be and what it should not be. The sole power of an art critic should be writing, how well he does it daily, how well he transmits his ideas in an understandable form.”

Katariina Lipsanen

Relatio Artis page
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Timo Valjakka