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The Oriental Ceramic Society is delighted to welcome Dr. Minna Törmä whose talk draws upon research conducted for her recently published book Nordic Private Collections of Chinese Objects.In her talk Dr Törmä will focus upon the category of collectibles that are souvenirs.

A characteristic of objects defined as souvenirs is that they are collected for their personal affinity to the collector. The stories of how and from where they have been acquired are integral to the appreciation of them. Thus, Dr Törmä’s talk will be both a discussion of what was collected and an exploration of how two collectors, Kustaa Hiekka and Osvald Sirén, used souvenirs to tell stories.

Kustaa Hiekka was a Finnish goldsmith who in 1907 embarked on a world tour that included stops in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and a lengthy stay in Japan. Though World Tours at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries could be extravagant affairs, including  the building of lavish collections. Travellers with more modest means emulated the wealthy by creating ‘oriental’ rooms or displays of exotic souvenirs in their homes upon their return.

Dr Törmä will also discuss the personal collection of the Finnish-Swedish art historian Osvald Sirén (1879–1966) who spent long periods in China and Japan. For him, the objects he brought back from these visits were ‘scholarly souvenirs’. They were both mementoes from his travels and also sources of inspiration for his research. The Chinese objects, which ranged from tomb figurines to paintings, and from ceramics to furniture together with Tang and Song poetry helped him to tune his mind to the appropriate mood for writing his books on Chinese paintings and gardens.

Minna Törmä studied art history and theatre history at the University of Helsinki and received her PhD with a dissertation on Northern Song landscape painting (Landscape Experience as Visual Narrative) in 2002. She complemented her studies with courses on Chinese art at University of California, Berkeley (1993-1994) and the School of Oriental and African Studies, London (1998). She was Lecturer in the Arts of China (MLitt) programme at Christie’s Education, (London 2009-2014). She is also Adjunct Professor of Art History at the University of Helsinki. Publications include Enchanted by Lohans: Osvald Sirén’s Journey into Chinese Art (Hong Kong University Pres, 2013) and Nordic Private Collections of Chinese Objects (Routledge, 2020).

This online lecture is free of charge. If you enjoyed this programme and wish to support the OCS in producing more events like this, please consider doing so by donating to the OCS.

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