A group of artists active in 1996-2001 in Kraków. Its members were mostly painters who are well-known today: Rafał Bujnowski (b. 1974), Marek Firek (b. 1958), Józef Tomczyk "Kurosawa" (1941-2006), Marcin Maciejowski (b. 1974), and Wilhelm Sasnal (b. 1972).
The artists met during classes at a drawing club for architecture students at the Kraków University of Technology. The teacher was Marek Firek. Architecture was initially the course taken by Bujnowski, Sasnal and Maciejowski. The model for these classes, who was there to make some extra money, was the amateur artist Józef Tomczyk. Bujnowski, Sasnal and Maciejowski dropped out of their architecture course and enrolled in the faculty of painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków.
Of the five artists, Bujnowski, Sasnal and Maciejowski are successful as painters. Firek is a less popular artist today. Tomczyk "Kurosawa" died in 2006. In one interview Maciejowski described Tomczyk as the "group manager". Unquestionably Firek was its "ideologue and theoretician".
The group was formed in opposition to the Academy of Fine Arts. Its name "The Nicely Group" was a reference to the remarks the academy's professors made on the works of the students. As Maciejowski recalls:
Students brought in their paintings, and the professor walked around and commented. He would stop at my work, look at it and just to say anything at all …, he would say 'Yes, fine. Nicely done'. I think Bujnowski was the first one to notice this, and so it stuck.
Though Ładnie Group was composed of painters, their joint activity was practically limited to ironic and absurd shows at which they presented paintings, showed films, played music, gave away prizes. These events were held mainly at clubs around Kraków (including Roentgen, Miasto Krakoff). "We even gave one another prizes for artwork", Maciejowski says.
They say the group was inspired by neo-Dadaism, the work of Łódź Kaliska, or Wrocław's Luxus. Like many groups from the 1980s, Ładnie Group issued its own art zine, under the title "Pismo w poniedziałek"/ "Magazine on Monday", then "Pismo we wtorek" / "Magazine on Tuesday", and finally "Słynne pismo we wtorek" / "Famous Magazine on Tuesday". Photocopied (the covers were made from advertising brochures with added elements in felt pen and stickers), its aim was to promote Firek's idea of "venal art". Hence advertisements of the group members works complete with price lists. In its ironic texts, the zine also promoted the idea that creativity came from boredom, and practising art was frivolous. Based on "Pismo we wtorek" / "Magazine on Tuesday", Marta Smolińska-Byczuk wrote:
Grupa Ładnie negates the myth of the modernist artist, brilliant and creating under inspiration, they question the stance of the avant-garde artist who believed that art could change the world. What remains is the true image of a commercial world in which art is a commodity that has to be advertised, like soap, laundry detergent, or dog food.
The paintings of Ładnie Group's members, classified as banalism (a term previously used towards writers born in the 1970s) or pop-banalism (a term introduced by Raster magazine), were a reaction to Poland's capitalist reality after 1989. What they all shared were the themes, taken from everyday life, also from newspapers, glossy magazines, commercials, TV. The artists often painted in the aesthetics of kitsch and advertising, adopting a strategy of irony. During this time, Maciejowski painted over newspaper pictures (supplemented with text), Bujnowski made Picture-Objects (1999-2002) and ran his Open Gallery on three billboards in the centre of Kraków (from 1998), Sasnal's activities included drawing a comic book on Everyday Life in Poland in 1999-2001 (published by Raster Gallery in 2001), while Firek placed simple rebuses on his canvases. The only thing that could be considered a joint painting event was an advertising campaign for Radiostacja radio station commissioned by d'Arcy Agency. It comprised nine hand-painted billboards displayed in Kraków's streets.
Looking back, Sasnal, Bujnowski and Maciejowski belittle the group's activity. Maciejowski said in one interview:
We did nothing as a group. We played recordings, Józek Kurosawa was there. And if we had an exhibition, Wilhelm or me, people would say later that it was Grupa Ładnie.
Sasnal also insists that Ładnie Group "was a group of friends, art was secondary. Maybe in the beginning you could find similarities in the way we painted. But later all of us went our separate ways. We were all tired of being reviewed in the context of 'Grupa Ładnie'".
By: Karol Sienkiewicz, December 2007