2017 Must-sees: Top Exhibitions Worth Seeing in Poland This Year
A few dozen exhibitions commemorating the centennial of the Avant-garde movement in Poland, the 80th birthday of a Polish feminist art legend and the opening of the new headquarters of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. Here’s a guide to museum and gallery-related events that we are looking forward to in 2017.
The Year of Avant-garde
In 2017, Poland will be celebrating the centennial of the avant-garde, whose symbolic birthday is considered the opening of the First Exhibit of Polish Expressionists at the Kraków Society of Friends of Fine Arts in 1917. For this occasion, numerous museums, galleries, theatres, festivals, as well as cultural and academic institutions have prepared special exhibitions. Jarosław Suchan, director of the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź and initiator of the Year of Avant-garde celebrations, said:
The Avant-garde constitutes an important part of our heritage. It is connected to the notions of experimentation, universality, a sense of responsibility for society as a whole, and a search for a new, better way of arranging the world. Although it is sometimes thought of as a foreign ‘import,’ it is in fact an integral part of our culture, a fact that can be proven by the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź itself – it is the oldest contemporary art museum in Poland.
The most important event being organised by the Muzeum Sztuki will be an exhibition of the works of Katarzyna Kobro and Władysław Strzemiński at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid. The history of Avant-garde will also be presented during five exhibits organised at different departments of the Łódź museum:
- Superorganism: Avant-garde and the Experience of Nature (10th February - 21st May 2017), about avant-garde artists’ interest in nature
- Enrico Prampolini and the Theatre of Mechanical Constructions: Futurism and Staging Techniques of the Polish Avant-garde about its links to Futurism
- Montages: Debora Vogel and New Urban Legend about the aesthetic ideas of the Jewish writer and art theorist
- Life Organisers: De Stijl and Avant-garde Design in Poland
- Moved Bodies: Choreographies of Modernity about Katarzyna Kobro’s impact on contemporary dance
Igor Krenz at the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź
The solo exhibition of Igor Krenz (23rd June – 24th September 2017), one of the most important Polish post-conceptual artists, co-founder of the Azorro Supergroup, will show the most relevant themes and strategies in his artwork. The Transmisja Jako Zapis (Transmission as a Record) exhibition at the Muzeum Sztuki is a project by Grupa Budapeszt – a collaboration between Krenz and two curators – Michał Libera and Daniel Muzyczuk. A bonus: the first catalogue of the artist’s work will be published in honour of the exhibition.
Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz and Georges Perec at the Zachęta National Gallery of Art
The monographic exhibit of Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz at the Zachęta National Gallery of Art (27th January – 17th April 2017) will recall the artist’s versatile work. Jarnuszkiewicz is author of the Little Insurrectionist in the Warsaw Old Town, the Ironmaster sculpture on the façade of MDM (Marszałkowska Residential District) as well as the monuments of the pope and primate Wyszyński in the courtyard of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. His sculptures, medal-engravings and graphics will be on display alongside works less known to a Polish audience – including a collection of polychrome metal sculptures made during the artists’ stay in Canada. Dr. Waldemar Baraniewski, the curator of the exhibition, and professor of the Academy of Fine Arts, explains:
It’s hard to identify the moment in which he became an independent sculptor. But thanks to his manual talent, it was easy for him to express himself through drawings, graphics, ex libris, medals, small sculptures, as well as abstract and realistic monuments. His artistic vision can be divided into two main themes: the first, striving for monumentalism, the power of expression, dynamics and geometric analysis. The second, by contrast, is more private, and more ornamentally-graphic.
Another international exhibit at Zachęta Life: A Manual (4th February – 23rd April 2017), inspired by Georges Perec, appears equally intriguing. The curator and artist, Jadwiga Sawicka, wrote:
(...) One of Perec’s most well-known novels Life. A Manual is a multi-layered story of a Parisian town houses’ inhabitants. Composed based on the rules of combinatorial analysis and chess, it was the embodiment of the postulates of the OuLiPo literary group, of which Perec was a member since 1967. As Anna Wasilewska wrote about his oeuvre: ‘The book, of very rigorous construction, is an avant-garde and experimental work, which reads like a realistic novel, the reader tends not to notice the complicated machinery moving the plot forward.’
Art in Art at MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków
Art in Art at the Kraków Museum (28th April – 1st October 2017) is yet another exhibition from a series designed to confront different areas of life with artists’ imaginations. So far there have been exhibitions on history, sports, economy, crime, gender and medicine in art. The curators, Delfina Jałowik, Monika Kozioł, and Maria Anna Potocka, write:
However, this exhibit will differ from the others. The previous ones were very much connected to life, and analysed its truths and manipulations. (...) Art in Art doesn’t have the power to directly affect our lives. It is an area of reflection, stimulating us to think more deeply and more critically about everything that is existence.
Museum on the River Vistula
The new, temporary headquarters of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw will open on 25th March 2017. A wooden pavillion, which will stand by the River Vistula (next to the Copernicus Science Centre) is a design by Austrian architect Adolf Krischanitz, which served as the Temporäre Kunsthalle art gallery in Berlin in 2008-2010. The inaugural exhibit will be called Syrena Herbem Twym Zwodnicza (English title TBD) – a quote from a poem by Cyprian Norwid. The façade is made to serve as a canvas and will be painted by Sławomir Pawszak.
There is currently an exhibition on at the museum’s previous headquarters, behind the recently dismantled Emilka pavilion, Ministry of Internal Affairs: Intimacy as Text (26th January – 2nd April). The curator, Natalia Sielewicz, was named one of the 20 most influential young curators by artsy.net. The common factor of all the works on display is the first-person narrative – texts, voice recordings, video clips and objects, poetry readings and performances, sincere confessions and self-creations, full of intimacy, emotions and narcissism, personal experiences and critical perspectives.
Sputnik Photos at the Arsenal Gallery in Białystok
Shortly after its presentation at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle (until 5th February 2017), an exhibition by the international collective Sputnik Photos will open at the Arsenal Gallery in Białystok (3rd March – 20th April 2017). The collection consists of photographs taken in former USSR republics, as part of the Lost Territories project. The exhibit will be accompanied by two publications: the Lost Territories Word Book and Fruit Garden. According to Dagmara Staga of Culture.pl:
The photographers of Sputnik Photos take the viewer on a journey around territories of the former USSR, lands of painful and unfinished transformations. In past years they have registered the life and space of all the 15 new countries that emerged after the collapse of an old empire. The photographs created stories about problems of propaganda in Georgia, veterans of the Georgian-Russian war, the degrading effect of uranium and nuclear waste on the environment, veterans of the great Patriotic War (...), urban cultivations in Yerevan or the earthquake in Spitak, Armenia.
About National Identity at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle
The exhibition Późna Polskość: Nowe Formy Narodowej Tożsamości Po 1989 Roku (editors translation: Late Polishness: New Forms of National Identity Post-1989) (31st March – 6th August 2017) and the rich programme accompanying it will explain the Polish sense of distinctiveness in relation to other nations. Ewa Gorządek and Stach Szabłowski, curators of the exhibition, elaborate:
Late Polishness (written about by artist Tomasz Kozak), about disputes over its shapes and boundaries and about the dilemma: what mold should we ‘pour’ Polishness into in order to obtain its contemporary shape, while preserving its essence. The territory of this story will be Polish culture. (...) Our main goal is to introduce the narration of visual artists about Polishness into other areas of our national culture, primarily cinema, theatre, television and literature.
The exhibit will feature works of artists such as C.T. Jasper and Joanna Malinowska, Robert Kuśmirowski, Dorota Nieznalska, Robert Rumas, Weronika Szczawińska, Radek Szlaga, Krzysztof Wodiczko and Piotr Uklański.
17th Media Art Biennale WRO 2017
The 17th edition of the Biennale (17th May – 30th June 2017), the most important event in Poland dedicated to new media, presenting the newest work of artists from around the world, will take place in Wrocław. This year all of the exhibitions, shows, conferences, performances and concerts will be under the slogan Draft Systems. The participating artists include the GrinderMan Group, Norimichi Hirakawa, Paweł Janicki, Maciej Markowski and Suzanne Treister. Piotr Krajewski, artistic director of the Biennale, writes:
The context of the presentations and meetings of the Biennale in 2017 is a series of observations on the irreversible character of contemporary phenomena. (...) Technological development has proven costly for the planet; (...) the barely established supralocal co-operation is already coming apart at the seams; democracy, the best of the worst political systems, is on the decline and is steadily losing its supporters. Expanding access to information hasn’t saved us from stereotypical world views and prejudices.
Natalia LL at the Centre of Contemporary Art in Toruń
This will be a retrospective of the co-founder of the international feminist movement, legend of Polish neo-avant-garde and conceptual art in honour of the artist’s 80th birthday. The exhibit Sum Ergo Sum at the Centre of Contemporary Art in Toruń (19th May – 1st October 2017) will show works from different periods of Natalia LL’s career, including her most well-known pieces: Consumer Art and Post-Consumer Art.
The series (...) consists of a set of black-and-white and colour photographs, along with films of women eating a variety of foods in a suggestive manner, bananas, hot dogs, jelly.
Sources: msl.org.pl, zacheta.art.pl, mocak.pl, artmuseum.pl, galeria-arsenal.pl, csw.art.pl, wrocenter.pl/wro2017, csw.torun.pl, culture.pl; originally written in Polish, 27 Jan 2017, translated by WF, 2 Feb 2017