Content anchor

Rafał Jakubowicz

Rafał Jakubowicz, fot. Radosław Jóźwiak / Agencja Gazeta
Rafał Jakubowicz, photo: Radosław Jóźwiak / Agencja Gazeta

Painter, video and installation artist and art critic. Born in 1974 in Poznań.

Jakubowicz graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, where he studied artistic education until 1999 and painting, graphic arts and sculpture until 2000. He is currently completing his doctoral studies through the Institute of Art History at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, and he teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 2002 he co-founded the artistic group called Wunderteam, and since 2005 he has been a member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA). He lives and works in Poznań.

Although Jakubowicz's art has often been associated with remembering the Holocaust, a theme that is present in many of his installations and videos, his work also touches upon a number of other topics and issues. The artist is devoted to developing his painting, concentrating on reflecting on the place and the role of art with a recent focus on art's institutional superstructure. At the same time he is also an active member of Wunderteam, an artistic group whose actions, exhibitions and videos are rich in humour and irony.

Jakubowicz began his artistic career with paintings that were compared to the work of Luc Tuymans. They were mysterious and enigmatic, blurred outlines of portraits with foggy shadows and telling titles (for example the  Zugzwang series, 2003). Although Jakubowicz soon moved away from the so-called Tuymans effect, he has continued to paint. From time to time he mounts exhibitions based on this traditional medium, but not limited to it; he complements his paintings with videos, includes paintings in installations and, most of all, he draws painting into a broader discussion of the art history tradition.

This was the case with the  Forma (Form) exhibition, presented for the first time in 2004 in Warsaw's Foksal Gallery. In it, Jakubowicz showed a series of small paintings whose geometric forms were based on medicine packages. The canvases, while reflecting fragments of reality, could also have been considered abstract paintings. Part of the show was also a film depicting a fizzy tablet dissolving in a glass of water. The title of the exhibition was significant – the word Form can be used both to describe a painting and the physical condition of a human being, a condition supported by the pharmaceutical industry.

In 2005 Jakubowicz created the installation  Mittel Weiß  in the same gallery, covering the walls of an exhibition room with the popular "Rauhfaser" pattern of wallpaper – white with tiny edgings. In the corridor, he placed a small oil painting that imitated the texture of the wallpaper. In so doing, Jakubowicz elevated the walls from their status as mere background and exposed the "place" itself, referring to a strategy postulated in the early manifestos of the critics who established Foksal Gallery in the 1960s. But Jakubowicz was also entering into a discussion with the avant-garde tradition, especially with Władysław Strzemiński's "unism".

However, the leitmotiv running through Jakubowicz's installations and videos remains the issue of the social space created by the Holocaust and the memory of Poland's departed inhabitants, the Jews. In 2002 the artist inscribed billboards with one blurred word:  Seuchensperrgebiet  ("a territory endangered by epidemics"). During the Second World War, this word had been put up on signboards in the Jewish ghettos, and the font used by the artist was reminiscent of that produced by the German "Erika" typewriter. The inscription, which was enigmatic for most Poles, nonetheless suggested that the epidemic had in fact occurred, considering that a huge part of the Jewish population had been exterminated and had faded into oblivion.


That same year, Jakubowicz produced his most acclaimed work of art,  Arbeitsdisziplin (2002). It consisted of a light box, a postcard of the Volkswagen factory in Poznań seen from behind a wire fence and a video of a guard, filmed from behind the fence, watching over the factory grounds. Visually, the work triggers associations with a concentration camp (with the barbed wire and the "chimney" of the factory bearing the VW logo). But it alludes at the same time to the sometimes-inglorious history of the German company and the issue of contemporary corporate discipline. The exhibition Arbeitsdisziplin, planned for 2002 at the Municipal Gallery Arsenal in Poznań, was censored, probably as the result of external intervention.

In April 2003, Jakubowicz projected the Hebrew word for  Pływalnia (בריכת-שחייה) (Swimming Pool)  on the façade of a former synagogue in Poznań, which had been transformed into a swimming pool during the Nazi occupation and remains one to this day. A postcard – one of the artist's favourite mediums – and two videos remain as a record of this realisation. On the front of the postcard is a photograph of the building during the projection, and on the back side is an image of three swimming boys as seen through half-open doors. The videos document the projection on the façade along with a recording made inside the building. The project was exhibited at the Auschwitz Jewish Centre in Oświęcim in 2006.

For the 2006 exhibition "Próżna Street" in Warsaw, the artist created two works entitled  Piaskownica (Sandbox) and Transparent (Banner). The former consisted of two photographs of a sand box from the former Warsaw Ghetto that had been transformed into a flower-bed (both images visible on the front and back sides of a postcard), complemented by a quotation from Janusz Korczak, "If you do not believe in the soul, still, you have to acknowledge that your body will live on as green grass, as a cloud. Yet, you are water and ash".

In Transparent (Banner), Jakubowicz used a old photograph of an inter-war demonstration. One of the slogans on the banners read "down with Jewish art", and the artist recreated this banner out of an enlarged print of a fragment of the photograph.

In his recent work, Jakubowicz has explored the role of art in society and the issue of perceiving both art and the artist. In 2005, he made a sort of anti-advertisement for art with an ironic project entitled Sztuka zabija (Art Kills), using rectangular black frames (similar to obituaries) filled with inscriptions warning smokers of the consequences of smoking – the same inscriptions found on cigarette packs. He then created a series of stickers warning the public of the fatal consequences of making art, such as "Making art is seriously addictive – do not start making art" or "Your doctor or psychologist will help you quit art". At the same time, he created a series of small, rectangular paintings consisting of nothing more than a white background and black frame; there were no inscriptions. However, the artist placed his own messages beneath each one, reducing the common health warning to pure geometry. Once again he was entering into a dialogue with avant-garde painting, relegating it to the form of an obituary.

In 2005, Jakubowicz presented an installation entitled  Stoosiemdziesiąt i coś (One Hundred and Eighty and Something) at the Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw. From behind a wooden fence, whose height was indicated by the show's title (shorter viewers had to climb on bricks in order to see), people could watch a video projection


depicting an analogous situation. In the film, people standing on bricks were trying to see what was behind a fence. Thus was created a closed circle that exposed both the impossibility of representation and some hidden secret that remains out of reach.

Jakubowicz returned to his earlier work as a painter in 2006 with  Gabinet (Office), a series of portraits of Polish politicians who have served as Ministers of Culture since 1989. The politicians' faces are shown in close-up, their portraits based on newspaper photographs and painted using only two shades of white. Under every painting the artist placed a golden plate indicating the dates of the minister's tenure. On the one hand, these "pale" portraits underline how rapidly the administrators of culture fade into oblivion; on the other, they emphasise how insignificant their contribution has been. Culture lives and develops independent of institutions.

Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, November 2006.

Selected individual exhibitions:

  • 2000 Reparation - graduate exhibition, presentation at the AT Gallery, Poznań
  • 2002 Out There - ON Gallery, Poznań; Arbeitsdisziplin - Squat Rozbrat, Poznań; Dicke Luft - Entropia Gallery, Wrocław
  • 2003 Zugzwang - Wieża Ciśnień Gallery, Konin
  • 2004 Forma / Form - Foksal Gallery, Warsaw; Entropia Gallery, Wrocław
  • 2005 Forma / Form - AT Gallery, Poznań; Sztuka Zabija / Art Kills - Pies Gallery, Poznań; Mittel Weiß - Foksal Gallery, Warsaw; Stoosiemdziesiąt i coś / One Hundred and Eighty and Something - Okna Gallery, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
  • 2006 Pływalnia / Swimming Pool - Auschwitz Jewish Centre / Centrum Żydowskie, Oświęcim; Gabinet / Cabinet - Entropia Gallery, Wrocław; The Lost Whistle (together with Yifat Lajst), Sekcja, Warsaw

Selected group exhibitions:

  • 2001 IV Wystawa Malarstwa Młodych / 4th Exhibition of Young Painting - BWA Awangarda Gallery, Wrocław
  • 2002 Figuranci / Figureheads - Centre for Contemporary Art Inner Spaces, Poznań
  • 2003 Stan wojenny / Martial Law - Zmiana Organizacji Ruchu, Warsaw
  • 2004 Leichte Arbeit - Galerie am Kino, Kesselhaus Kulturbrauerei, Berlin, Germany; Systemfailed - Rozbrat Gallery, Poznań; Signal Box / Nastawnia - Contemporary Art Gallery BWA, Katowice; Centre of Arts EL Gallery, Elblag; Inc. Sztuka wobec korporacyjnego przejmowania miejsc publicznej ekspresji (w Polsce) / Inc. Art Towards Corporate Taking-Over Places of Public Expression (in Poland) - XX1 Gallery, Warsaw; BWA Gallery, Zielona Góra; Awangarda Gallery, Wrocław (2005); Za czerwonym horyzontem. Nowa sztuka z Polski i Rosji / Beyond the Red Horizon New Art from Poland and Russia - Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
  • 2005 Signal Box / Nastawnia and Inc. Sztuka wobec korporacyjnego przejmowania miejsc publicznej ekspresji (w Polsce) / Inc. Art Towards Corporate Taking-Over Places of Public Expression (in Poland) - Bielsko Edition - Bielska BWA Gallery, Wzgórze Gallery, Bielsko-Biała; Signal Box - Galerie výtvarného umĕní - Dům umĕní, Ostrawa, Czech Republic; P.S. ЗА КРАСНЬІМ ГОРИЗОНТОМ / Beyond the Red Horizon - National Centre for Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia; Otwarcie Początek / Opening Beginning - Lokal_30, Warsaw; Cita a Ciegas / Randka w ciemno / Blind Date - Sector Reforma, Guadalajara, Mexico; Art Forum Berlin - Berlin, Germany; Czas kultury / Time of Culture - Program Gallery, Warsaw; Industriestadt - Futurismus 100 Jahre Wolfsburg/Nowa Huta / The Futurism of Industrial Cities - 100 Years of Wolfsburg/Nowa Huta - Kunstverein Wolfsburg, Germany
  • 2006 Zobacz to, co ja / See What I See - Municipal Art Gallery, Art Propaganda Centre, Łódź; Wozownia Art Gallery, Toruń; Cita a Ciegas - Galería de los alumnos, Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas UNAM, México D.F., Mexico; Postery Post_ery - an exhibition accompanying the 20th International Poster Biennial, Poster Museum in Wilanów, Warsaw; Welcome to the Media / Witajcie w mediach! - Królikarnia Gallery, Warsaw; Pantheon / Hrdinovia a Anti-pomniky - Galéria Médium, Vysoká škola výtvarných umení, Bratislava, Slovakia; Stan wewnetrzny / Inner State - Zamek Centre for Culture, Poznań; Ulica Próżna 2006 / Próżna Street - in the frames of The Warsaw of Singer 3rd Festival of Jewish Culture - Próżna St. 7/9, Warsaw; Futuryzm miast przemysłowych, 100 lat Nowej Huty i Wolfsburga / The Futurism of Industrial Cities - 100 Years of Wolfsburg/Nowa Huta - Łaźnia Nowa, Nowa Huta, Krakow; Czechpoint. Mezinárodní Výstava a Festival Politického Umĕní - Galerie C2C, Prague, Czech Republic; 100 Days=100 Videos. Videoprogramme with a New Video Daily - Ausstellung auf der Plattform, Heidelberger Kunstverein, Heidelberg, Germany.

Photos are published courtesy of the artist.

back to the text
Das Kreuz
Das Kreuz II
Die Villa

Rewir 77
Henryk Mania

Mittel weiß
back to the text

Forma (Form)
back to the text

back to the text

back to the text

Pływalnia (Swimming Pool)
back to the text

Piaskownica (Sandbox)
back to the text

Transparent (Banner)
back to the text

Sztuka zabija (Art kills)
back to the text

Stoosiemdziesiąt i coś (One Hundred and Eighty and Something)
back to the text

Gabinet (Office)
back to the text's picture
Facebook Twitter Reddit Share

Rafał Jakubowicz


Rafał Jakubowicz


The history of the luminous gas-filled glass tubes tells the tumultuous political and economic story of Poland in the 20th century. Read more about: A History of Warsaw's Neons

Rafał Jakubowicz


Karolina Breguła, "Biuro budowy pomnika", 2016, photo courtesy of lokalu_30

From 21 July to 30 October the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle and the Polish Institute in Berlin will host an exhibition of the work of Polish artists selected from among the finalists for the Views Award. is a partner. Read more about: Views Finalists in Berlin

Brak podobnych artystów.