Unknown Author, "PrincessJadwiga", ca. 1530, source: Bayerische Schlösserverwaltung

The binational exhibition marks ten centuries of cultural exchange between neighbours Poland and Germany

Berlin's Martin-Gropius-Bau is hosting a show of close to 800 pieces ranging from works of art to documents detailing the spiritual and scientific development of both Poland and Germany. The exhibition reveals the intricate shared cultural past of the two bordering nations through a wide array of pieces donated by major private and institutional collections in Poland, Germany and other European countries, such as the National Museum in Warsaw, the Łódź Museum of Art, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Vatican Library. 

Curated by Anda Rottenberg, the exhibition presents some 250 paintings, 30 sculptures, 60 historical volumes, 80 manuscripts, 60 etchings, 70 documents, 100 craft items and150 photographs, film, music and prints. It is the first time that such a broad showcase of this rich cultural heritage has been presented, beginning with representations of political and diplomatic figures significant to the early relations of the two countries, starting with St. Adalbert and Richeza from Cologne, who married the future King Mieszko II and became Queen of Poland in 1025 through the Landshut Wedding, battles of the Teutonic Knights up to World War II, Solidarity and EU accession.

The most iconic pieces include the portrait of Margrave Albrecht von Brandenburg-Ansbach by Lucas Cranach the Elder from the year 1528, outstanding 17th century paintings from Danzig and “Prussian Tribute” by Jan Matejko from 1882, along with works by major contemporary artists - Mirosław Bałka, Artur Żmijewski, Krzysztof Bednarski, Edward Dwurnik, Jochen Gerz, Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, Wilhelm Sasnal, Gregor Schneider, Günther Uecker, Piotr Uklanski, Luc Tuymans and Krzysztof Wodiczko. Many of these artists use make use of the complexities of political conflict and strife of the past in creating a new commentary on the state of Poland, Germany and Europe in the present. These works are not without controversy, as the removal of Żmijewski's "Tag", which depicts naked people playing games in a gas chamber, has proven. After protests from a prominent member of the Jewish Community, the work was effectively censored. 

See more on the removal of Żmijewski's "Tag"

The exhibition opened on the morning of the 21st of September with an official VIP ceremony presided over by patrons Polish President Bronisław Komorowski and German President Christian Wulff. In his speech, President Komorowski emphasised that "art is more precious than gold, it gives people a sense of immortality" and declared that the exhibition "tells the history of important and fruitful neighbourly relations as seen through the looking glass of culture and art. Luminaries from both the political and artistic spheres from both nations were in attendance. 

The opening of the exhibition was accompanied by a concert of Polish dances composed by the German composer G. P. Telemann and performed by the Orchiesta Czasów Zarazy / Times of the Plague Orchestra. The Orchestra attempts to reconstruct early Polish music from the years 1717-1722, based on Telemann’s manuscripts and notes. The Orchestra performed 31 dances and was accompanied by a fiddler and piper.

See report on reviews in German dailies of the exhibition

The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive catalogue edited by the Polish art historian Prof. Małgorzata Omilanowska and published by DuMont-Verlag, with essays by renowned experts from Germany and Poland as well as guest authors from other countries.

Martin-Gropius-Bau has a history of housing exciting exhibitions that touch on major themes of cultural history. The museum works closely with the latest archaeological finds and the international contemporary arts scene. The building itself is classified as a historical monument, opening with great pomp in 1881. 

The initiative was developed on the basis of an agreement between the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in Poland and a representative of the Federal Republic of Germany for Culture and Media.

Presidents Bronisław Komorowski and Christian Wulff are patrons of the exhibition.

Date: 23rd of September, 2011 - 9th of January, 2012

Venue: Martin-Gropius-Bau, Universität der Knute

Organised by: Royal Castle in Warsaw, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berliner Festspiele

Funded by: the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.

Project cofinanced by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.

Source: Adam Mickiewicz Institute

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