The Extraordinary Outdoor Gallery Where Poland Meets Tibet
Gaining international recognition amongst the world’s Buddhist population, the Tibetan Gallery in Warsaw continues to grow year on year. Painted on the pillars holding up a flyover, this inventive use of outdoor space has transformed what would otherwise be a bleak piece of urban no-man’s-land into a visually-alluring beacon for contemplation and creativity.
The Tibetan Gallery came as a consequence of a three-day event in 2009 during which over 100 people including artists, passersby, Varsovians and activists, painted the corner of a roundabout with striking pieces of art. It was all inspired by Warsaw council’s decision to award the Dalai Lama honorary citizenship. Ever since, works inspired by Tibet have been added to the nearby pillars that stretch north from the roundabout each year, forming a fully-fledged mural showcase subsequently known as the Tibetan Gallery. It was all a joint creation between Fundacja Inna Przestrzeń, Fundacja Klamra and 3fala.art.pl, and is supported by the City of Warsaw and the Municipal Road Authority (ZDM).
This open-air street gallery is located in the Warsaw district of Wola, underneath a flyover between the roads Wolska and Kasprzaska. You can find the original 2009 murals at the southern Kasprzaska end, officially called Rondo Tybetu (“Tibet Roundabout”).
Thirty murals are included in the gallery's permanent collection, but this number grows each year when five new ones are added during the summer. Brand new works unveiled in 2015 included murals by Aneta Paszek and Magdalena Firląg. The mural artists may all have varied influences and use different techniques, but all find great inspiration in Tibet itself.
"When somebody remembers their homeland’s landscape, it's enough for them to look at anything to see it. They can see it in their hand in their life line. A landscape appears in it. Some people live in this landscape. They cannot enjoy it in real life, but they carry it with them inside. Their country isn't free, perhaps they cannot even go there. This is the hand of an exile. A person who can only recall and remember."
– Agata Bogacka on her 2012 mural, Path to Freedom
"I wanted to show Tibet in completely different light, to liberate it from politics, Chinese propaganda and its painful conflict. Despite everything, I wanted to show the beauty of their culture and reinforce that positive energy you hear so little about."
– Maciej Szymonowicz Kamerski on his 2011 mural, We Trumpet the Same Thing
"I thought architecture could be a theme. Above all, I wanted to create a mix of the world of the holy and the world of people on Earth. Just like how Tibetan culture sees it."
– Aneta Paszek on her untitled 2015 mural
As well as all the murals, the gallery occasionally hosts other events, such as traditional Tibetan dances performed by members of the Tibetan community in Poland, as well as artistic performances. For example, in August 2015, the Warsaw-based artist IwonaTM performed an homage to Tibetan culture using symbolic elements such as lapis lazuli pigment. August 2015 also saw the addition of an installation made up of a path lined by large rocks created by Paulina Lis and Mai Bui Ngoc. The idea for this work, which bears the title Road, was inspired by the rocky landscapes of the Tibetan Plateau.
With many pillars still left to fill, it's likely this artistic oasis will continue to grow and inspire. Above all, the Tibetan Gallery is a reminder that we are responsible not only for what we do in our home country, but that we have the power to create a dialogue with the whole world.
Sources: tibetangallery.pl, written by Marek Kępa, edited by ND & AZ, Sept 2015