Culture Is the Capital of Tomorrow

Earlier this year, city of Helsinki received a tempting invitation from Guggenheim foundation to establish a museum in Helsinki. As always with Guggenheim, they are not going to build the museum with their assets, but provide their international network to run attractive exhibitions. Proposal created a great debate among citizens and majority seems to think the money invested would be taken out of old people’s care or kindergartens. In real life, this would not be the case. In the industrial age, countries thrived when they had natural resources and financial capital. These factors created wealth, which in turn created the preconditions for the development of infrastructure and the education system.

This situation is now changing radically. Greatest wealth in the future will derive from cultural investment: the attractiveness of old capital will decrease as natural resources grow scarce and financial capitalism is also coming to the end of its rope, as we are currently witnessing.

Culture is an immaterial form of capital whose attractiveness draws material capital. In the future, the attention of consumers will increasingly be drawn to immaterial capital: experiences, enjoyment of nature, life balance.

Finland still lives off its forests and its metal industry, but we will need much more in the future. We will need cultural attractiveness to draw attention, people, businesses and euros, from all over the world.

Such an attractive and multicultural society is the precondition for the future success of Finland, one which we all must commit to building. That is why we must take a bold step forward and invite the Guggenheim Foundation to build that future with us. If we do not take that step, future generations will condemn us as narrow-minded cowards who cannot see beyond their own noses.

As long as there is a will, a creative funding solution can be found. The recent success of fundraising for the Aalto University showed that capital can be found also in these latitudes as long as the objective is deemed sufficiently valuable. And a Guggenheim museum is certainly that. If our government would be long-sighted enough, they could allow donations to be tax-deductible. This would certainly bring private money on the table. But unfortunately I have not seen any signs of this kind of operation.

But as always, there is opposition galore. In Finland, the ‘cost-effectiveness’ of cultural investment in particular is always questioned: would it not be better to use the money for a library, say, or care for the elderly? These are unquestionably worthy causes, but I want to say this: it is precisely for that very reason – in recognition of the pragmatic aspects – that it is vitally important that we also invest in culture.

For the key challenge to Finland in the coming decades is to make this country more open and multicultural. We need at least 250,000 immigrants by 2025 in order to offset the labour shortage caused by the retiring baby boomer generation. For this to be a viable option, we need not only to change our feudalistic immigration policy, but also to attract more international – transnational and unifying – cultural life. And there Guggenheim will be a definite asset.