A Mine of Culture—The New Silesian Museum
#photography & visual arts
small, A Mine of Culture—The New Silesian Museum, The Silesian Museum in Katowice, photo: Sonia Szeląg, muzeum_slaskie_w_katowicach_fot_sonia_szelag_2.jpg
The turbulent and multicultural history of Silesia, as well as Poland and Europe, are woven together in this post-industrial space. The new museum opens on 26 June 2015.
Since the 19th century coal has influenced Silesian culture, so it is at the heart of the art and history of the region. As homage to this fact, the new Silesian Museum was built on the closed Katowice coal mine. This project has been underway at least in theory since 1924, when local authorities approved of the initiative from the Silesia Museum Society, and in 1929 they officially began to plan the museum. However, these plans were halted when the Nazis destroyed this extremely modern building during WWII. The project was renewed in the mid-1980s, but it is only now that the museum has been finished and stands as an architectural, functional, and, most of all, artistic establishment.
The new cultural center is almost 25 thousand square meters of usable area and six thousand square meters of exhibition space. The main part of the complex, which was designed by the Austrian studio Riegler Riewe Architekten from Graz, is a seven-story building. Three underground levels are devoted to collections of works of art that are dedicated to symbolically bringing out what is most important for the region. In addition to being made up of glass cubes as exhibition space, the museum makes use of the brick buildings of the former mine. The 40-meter tall tower that used to be part of the coal pit now provides a visible panorama of the capital of Upper Silesia.
The opening festival from 26 to 28 June 2015 will be accompanied by concerts, screenings, theatrical performances, and workshops. Visitors will be able to see five permanent exhibitions and three temporary ones at this time. The exhibits are meant to present the artistic activities of the residents of Silesia and other places in Poland. Multimedia accompanies the more than 1,400 works, and descriptions are available in two languages: Polish and English (additionally the exhibit devoted to the history of the region is also in Silesian and Germany).
The Light of History in the Shadow of War
The curators of the permanent exhibit The Light of History: Upper Silesia Through the Ages create a historical narrative of Silesia. A journey into the stories about industry, people, and their everyday lives creates a positive historical view even if the fate of the inhabitants was overshadowed by war. Many of the first settlers were immigrants from Western Europe, and the region saw the occasional bloody battle in a fight for power. However, despite cultural and linguistic differences, everyone was able to live in harmony, and formed strong familial ties that are characteristic of the region. The exhibit shows how the Silesians developed their identity in the face of industrial revolution, war, and socialism.
"History is not just about facts, it is not only about dates, it is not just about phenomena we teach in schools. This exhibit brings out the enchanting emotional side of history in an extremely modern way." – says curator Jarosław Racięski.
Among the exhibits you can see the seat of the Silesian voivodeship marshal from the years 1925-28, the statue of Saint Barbara, the patron saint of Silesia, and a bridal wreath from 1939. And this is just a taste of the political, religious, and social atmosphere of the past. The history section symbolically ends with the first partially free elections in 1989. The exhibit ends with a processor designed by Bytom engineers, as a sign of possible direction in the development in the region.
Paint My Silesia
The past can be viewed in the museum’s three collections of paintings: Gallery of Polish Painting 1800-1945, Polish Painting Gallery after 1945, and The Non-Professional Art Gallery. The first of these presents works by the most outstanding Polish artists and shows the most important trends in art: from classicism, romanticism, realism, to the painting of the interwar period. The collection is dominated by portraits (such as Jewish Woman with Oranges by Aleksander Gierymski and Portrait of Józef Ciechoński by Jan Matejko), but there are also landscapes, genre scenes, interiors and still lifes.
The works of Andrzej Wróblewski, Zdzisław Beksiński, Zbigniew Libera and other artists make up the second exhibit. The curators have tried to look at each piece in isolation from from concurrent designs and trends, instead emphasizing the ideological message of the work. The unconventional presentation complements the gallery of street art.
The third exhibit shows the unique amateur art movement of Upper Silesia.
"The artists are usually non-professionals who want to show their own stories. This is an important story for Silesia, about how to live here and that people can come to follow their dreams. For this exhibit I used the metaphor of connecting three important spaces: the underground world, the surface level, and the sky. The sky is the space of transcendence. This is where the fantastic area of human imagination if not limited." – says Sonia Wilk, curator of the exhibit.
The collection showcases pieces by artists such as Jan Nowak, Teofil Ociepka, and Bronisław Krawczuk. It is the only permanent gallery in Poland of amateur artists.
14 Meters Underground
The lowest levels of the building are 14 meters underground and hold another few exhibits. On the opening day the museum will present will present The Laboratory Theater Space—The Past in the Present. This is a combination of archives and interactive components. The viewer is invited to see the most significant achievements of European theater from their own perspective. Costumes, models, presentations, and exhibits show the evolution of theatrical space and the development of human consciousness from antiquity to the present.
The sixth permanent exhibit, the Gallery of Silesian Sacred Art, will be open in the second half of the year. It will include works of Gothic and modern painting, sculpture, and decorative arts closely associated with the region.
"These pieces attest to the spiritual and artistic heritage of this region. The narrative is enhanced by their symbolic arrangement inside the temple. It emphasizes the primary functions of these objects." – says Henryk Olszewsk-Jarem from the Silesian Museum
In the center of the underground space the museum plans to present the Gallery of One Work. The first work to appear will by the installation of "Modry" by Leon Tarasewicz. Through the color of the sky, the artist demonstrates his dreams and wisdom; he wishes to express his appreciation for the multiculturalism of Silesia and pay tribute to its residents.
twentieth-century polish art
On the lowest level of the building one can find the temporary exhibition Museum of Organization. Museum of Imagination. This will be an examination of the history of the institution. You can see examples of paintings from the 1940s and murals painted by Picasso in the Silesian Museum during his stay in Poland.
"The Silesian Museum, thanks to its accessibility and exhibitions dedicated to the heritage of Upper Silesia…deserves to be called the gateway to the culture of Katowice. We welcome everyone to the center of Katowice. It was established to be a museum for everyone who seeks aesthetic and knowledge, regardless of age, gender, nationality, culture, or disability.” – says Alicja Knast, director of the institute.
Source: press releases, ed. AW, trans. ASJ 26/05/2015