From May to June 2015, the National Art Museum of China in Beijing hosted the exhibition State of Life. Polish Contemporary Art within a Global Circumstance. It was the first so comprehensive a presentation of Polish contemporary art not only in China, but also in this part of Asia.
The year 1989 brought a radical change in Poland – when Poland broke away from the collapsing Soviet bloc, Poles faced a whole new reality which was, for the first time in many years, in their own hands. Last quarter of the century in Poland, was an extremely intensive time, when boundless opportunities, economic development and the sense of regained freedom mixed with discourses and tensions relating to the post-war period.
The exhibition State of Life, curated by Jarosław Lubiak, took up different aspects of life and living conditions in Poland as well as the condition of the state itself. Going back to the early visions of modernity (in the works of Katarzyna Kobro and Władysław Strzemiński), through the dealing with the Second World War memory (Andrzej Wróblewski, Tadeusz Kantor or Piotr Uklański) it traced different ways of conveying every-day life experience in Poland today. The exhibition gave the Chinese audience a wide and thorough presentation of the most essential works and influential artists in Polish contemporary art. A total of 70 works were displayed in the exhibition halls of the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC), considered one of the most important Chinese cultural institutions. The exhibition's opening on 10th May coincided with closing of another Polish art exhibition in Beijing: Treasures from Chopin's country, which was presented at the National Museum of China.
The exhibition had been prepared by the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź and Culture.pl, as part of Polish cultural program in China. This multidisciplinary program, coordinated by Culture.pl, presented Polish cultural projects in some of the most important cities on the cultural map of the country (Beijing, Wuhan, Tianjin), forming a coherent series of events aimed at raising awareness of the brand 'Poland' and Polish culture in China.
State of Life is an attempt to communicate the Polish experience to recipients from a different culture. The exhibition's point of departure is the idea that the experience of a community living in a specific place and a specific culture can be transmitted using the language of art, thus becoming accessible for those who haven't personally participated in it.
Presenting Polish art at the National Art Museum of China, State of Life aims to reflect the complex balance of forces and tensions shaping reality in today's Poland as it undergoes modernization and globalization processes. The exhibition raises questions about what the Polish articulation of living through culture and art can contribute to global art, a heir of avant-garde, abstract, and conceptual traditions, as well as to globalized culture.
The exhibition features some 70 works by artists who concern themselves with the present-day situation in Poland yet work in a truly global vein. It is precisely the achievements of artists from generations enjoying full access to participation in global culture that the exhibition presents in the widest selection.
One of the show's main themes is a reflection on the Polish landscape, both natural and urban, and social structures. Another is how subjectivity is shaped in Polish culture, and the key tropes here include personality formation, relations with other individuals, or the work of affects and memory.
In the context of these themes, the exhibition also presents selected works from the history of Polish modern art, e.g. by Władysław Strzemiński, Katarzyna Kobro, Andrzej Wróblewski, Ewa Partum, Tadeusz Kantor, or Alina Szapocznikow. These works too are shown through the lens not so much of history as of their present-day significance.
The exhibition aims to exploit to the fullest the intercultural cooperation facilitated by the development of global art. This is a different mode than an international cooperation consisting in the exchange of ideas or goods between cultures according to a hierarchy formulated by the political/economic center. In the context of such relations, State of Life asks important questions about the contemporary form of Polishness and the possibility of its globalization.
Curator: Jarosław Lubiak
Artists: Paweł Althamer, Ewa Axelrad, Mirosław Bałka, Wojciech Bąkowski, Michał Budny, Rafał Bujnowski, Olaf Brzeski, Marek Chlanda, Tomasz Ciecierski, Edward Dwurnik, Nicolas Grospierre, Aneta Grzeszykowska, Piotr Janas, Łukasz Jastrubczak, Adam Jastrzębski, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Agnieszka Kalinowska, Tadeusz Kantor, Leszek Knaflewski, Katarzyna Kobro, Tomasz Kozak, Katarzyna Kozyra, Zofia Kulik, Kamil Kuskowski, Norman Leto, Zbigniew Libera, Robert Maciejuk, Jan Manski, Angelika Markul, Anna Molska, Magdalena Moskwa, Jerzy Nowosielski, Roman Opałka, Ewa Partum, Włodzimierz Pawlak, Zbigniew Rogalski, Tadeusz Rolke, Zofia Rydet, Wilhelm Sasnal, Jan Simon, Aleksandra Ska, Łukasz Skąpski, Jan Smaga, Mikołaj Smoczyński, Magdalena Starska, Władysław Strzemiński, Alina Szapocznikow, Radek Szlaga, Leon Tarasewicz, Piotr Uklański, Andrzej Wasilewski, Julita Wójcik, Andrzej Wróblewski, Monika Zawadzki, Jakub Julian Ziółkowski, Zorka Projekt.