Sara Hildén Foundation’s deed of foundation, 1962
It is my hope to promote visual art and its recognition and public enjoyment by preserving the works of art in my possession as an intact collection for the benefit of posterity and by ensuring the collection’s future upkeep and continued expansion…
Sara Hildén’s legacy lives on in the tangible form of the Sara Hildén Foundation Collection and also intangibly in the high standards of excellence that she observed both as a collector and businesswoman. She was generous in her support of art and many artists and valued the advice of her artist friends when selecting new works for her collection.
The artistic content of the Sara Hildén Museum’s collection expresses the modernist philosophy of art for art’s sake – that art has inherent aesthetic value. Art should be judged purely on its own merits, independent of external validations. To this day, aesthetic merit remains a high priority both in the museums’ acquisitions policy and collection-based exhibitions.
Watch the short documentary 10 Facts about Sara Hildén below!
10 FACTS ABOUT SARA HILDÈN (2013) 17 min
Direction and screenplay: Pia Andell
Production: OF COURSE MY FILMS/Pia Andell 2013
Cinematography: Pekka Uotila, editing: Antony Bentley, sound design: Kirsi Korhonen, composer: Timo Hietala, graphic design: Helena Syrjä
There were many Saras.
I could say "hard",
but it's not really true….
..especially as I personally
found her very friendly.
She delt with things
like a man.
Although she was feared,
I still found her very generous.
10 FACTS ABOUT SARA HILDÉN
Born 16 August 1905.
Named Saara Ester Hilden.
museum director emeritus
Her family were crofters
from Lempäälä near Tampere.
She knew little about her father,
and her mother died early on.
She was brought up
by her maternal grandfather.
Her family was poor
with no cultural background,…
..only that of people who know
something about nature and life.
Quite early on she had to go out
and fend for herself.
She didn't go
to any proper school.
Two years' rudamentary education
at an ambulatory school.
But from a very early age
she did all kinds of jobs.
She was a bus conductress,
a clothes shop assistant,…
..and in summer she would go off to
Vyborg to sell tickets in a circus.
There she met people who thought
that literature made sense…
..and that it offered an entry
into almost all the other arts.
Sara was very active
in theatrical life,…
..and she held various positions
of trust in the theatre.
She wanted to surrounded herself
with people of culture…
..and she held receptions for writers,
artists and theatre people.
She offered good food and drink
and lively conversation.
Met the artist Erik Enroth in 1945.
Marriage in 1949.
Enroth and Sara met in Tampere
at a party given by friends.
She was relatively old, over 40.
He was 13 years younger.
Enroth had a strong character,
and he was very macho.
The energy and fury in his life
and art clearly appealed to Sara.
Two extremely strong
and intractable persons met,…
..and a spark was ignited
In 1952 established
a ladies outfitters business.
Sara said, I've made money
for others long enough,…
..now I'm going to make
my own fortune.
The time was just right.
After the war, people
had almost no clothes.
There were few shops: so if you got
hold of some goods, they sold.
factory office clerk
The train from Tampere got into
Helsinki at 4 in the morning.
And when the factory opened at 7
Sara was on the steps waiting.
She just went and took others'
goods. Nobody could stop her.
She even took unfinished goods
back to Tampere with her.
She was so incredibly energetic.
Many then went short of things.
Sara said, "You don't come
to buy from us. We sell to you."
And sometimes the customers were
sold things they didn't want.
A customer who wasn't firm went out
with a coat if it was Sara selling.
Sara did good business
with her firm. Really.
She knew what to buy, too.
Who else could have succeeded
as well as Sara Hildén did?
Because she had such skill
and toughness and drive.
4. Paid for Enroth's work and upkeep
and got his pictures in return.
Erik worked very intensively
in the 50s, and Sara drove him on.
And he produced a lot of art.
Erik knew all the time
just what he was doing.
It was all ready in his head,
I think, when he started to paint.
Sara admired his art immensely.
And so she wanted to get all
his works for herself.
He had masses of paintings,
one big room full of his works.
On a visit there I once noticed
behind each picture the words:
"Painted by Erik Enroth.
Owned by Sara Hildén"
Enroth's heavy drinking
cast a shade over the marriage
Although Erik worked hard,
there were always came a bad day when…
..he would get drunker in one hour
than most persons do in their lives.
Sara tried desperately to curb
his drinking and look after him.
Erik was fully conscious that he was
an alcoholic. Totally aware of it.
He admitted it openly.
And he was distressed
that he couldn't kick the habit.
Divorce in 1962.
Founded the Sara Hildén Foundation.
I suppose Erik felt that he
wasn't just her court painter,…
..that he was his own master.
That's what I think.
It meant in a way
the end of the world for Sara.
Sara Hildén Foundation's lawyer
Sara Hildén and Erik Enroth
had made a marital agreement…
..that gave her ownership
of over 300 of his works.
These included about 150
They were unsigned,
or had something else missing.
According to the agreement,
Sara Hildén also had the right…
..to transfer ownership of them
to her new foundation.
The divorce had dealt her
a crushing blow,…
..and she had to find something
worthwhile to compensate for it.
Advised by Finnish experts,
began collecting foreign modern art.
E.J. Vehmas, Assistant Curator
of the Ateneum suggested …
..that she might find fulfilment
in some activity that would…
..dispel her desperate thoughts.
I think she felt an even stronger
need to fall in love with art..
..- other art than Erik Enroth's.
I was at a trade fair
with Sara in Paris.
The whole textile field
and everybody was talking
about Sara buying a Picasso.
We bought a Picasso paper cutting,
from 1911 or '12.
It's the only Picasso
in her collection.
It was then still incredibly cheap,
and Sara bought it immediately.
It cost about a million
or so, I suppose.
Then a Tampere business woman
could still afford to buy…
..such a work.It wouldn't be
possible today any more.
Bought a lot of Finnish modern art and
supported the artists in several ways.
Sara discovered the young
Finnish talents of the 60s.
They were called "Sara's boys".
She bought a lot of their works.
There were about 15 artists
in her circle at that time.
The photo shows them well:
Sara and "Sara's boys".
She loaned money to many.
Never to me, but to many others.
She might ask someone:
"Are you short of money?"
Many times I called Sara Hilden
when I was really hard up,…
..and she listened asked for my account
number and sent money every time.
Amazingly, she never asked
what the money was for,…
..or couldn't I manage with less.
I always got what I asked for.
Artists didn't accept her
because she was a rich collector,…
..but because she was a collector
who understood their work.
1971-1976 a legal battle over copyright
between Enroth and the Foundation
In 1971 Erik Enroth filed a suit
against the foundation…
..accusing it of not granting
him access to his works…
..or the right to photograph them
or to complete unfinished works.
He also sought borrowing rights
to his works for other exhibitions.
All artists thought it was obvious
that there must be right of access.
Erik Enroth died in April 1975
before the case was settled.
The Supreme Court finally
delivered its verdict in 1976.
The verdict upheld the artist's
right of access to his works.
This has since been recognized,…
..and right of access was inscribed
in the Copyright Act of 1995.
The City of Tampere built the Sara
Hildén Art Museum. It opened in 1979.
City Mayor 1969-1985
All we laymen thought the museum
should be built near the centre.
But Sara had her own ideas.
She wanted it to be built beside
Särkänniemi Adventure Park.
Sara thought she was doing something
important with her art collection.
I find it wonderful when some-
one gives everything to society.
She could sit for hours
beside the front door.
She scrutinized the visitors
coming into the museum…
..and enjoyed the fact that
no-one recognized her.
And then she would indicate,
or her carer would announce…
..that Madam is coming inside
to look at the works.
I can see her in the main hall
peering at a work very close up.
I see her profile, her white hair,
her slightly stooped figure.
And clearly she's looking at
the work. It could be any work.
And she nods quietly to herself.
I remember watching her like Anaïs
Nin's Spy in the House of Love…
..and thinking, "She knows what
she has accomplished,…
..and no-one can dispute it."
Sara Hildén died 7 October 1993.
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