Culture.pl Sums Up the Year in 2015
#lifestyle & opinion
small, Culture.pl Sums Up the Year in 2015, Culture.pl receives the Guarantee of Culture Award. A photograph from the official award ceremony. From left: Jan Dworak (President of the National Br, culturepl-gwarancje-kultury-tvp-fot-tvp.jpg
Marking the 15th anniversary of our existence, the year 2015 was an exceptional one for us at the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. Operating under the Culture.pl brand, the Institute presented 5000 cultural events, bringing them to an audience of 50 million people on 5 continents across the globe.
It was also a year of remarkable projects carried out by the Institute: from visual art and design through classical as well as contemporary music, to film and theatre. Their locations spanned from Brazil to China. And the Culture.pl website in itself also enjoyed a year out of the ordinary. Since January 2015, it has been available in three languages: Polish, English and Russian. Updated daily, the service remains the largest and most reliable source of knowledge on Polish culture, the quality of which is confirmed by its regularly growing popularity.
In October 2015, the number of hits per month soared above 1 million – a result which improved last year’s statistics from the same month by some 60 percent. From January through to the end of November, Culture.pl boasted a total of 5,700,000 visitors and 9,300,000 hits.
Culture.pl is valued by Internet users from across the world for its credibility as well as the fast rate with which it provides the information. The highest numbers of foreign visits on the website are generated by users from the United States (which constitutes 26% of the total of foreign users), the UK (13%), and Germany (8%). The number of foreign users has increased by 60% over the course of the past year alone.
Culture.pl was officially recognised by users and experts this year, winning the Gwarancja Kultury (Guarantee of Culture) Award as well as the Golden Spider Web Award for the best website in the Events / Culture and Arts category.
(…) this was the largest exhibition that the National Museum of China held in 2015, and also the first presentation of the history of Polish art in Asia on such a large scale. We are able to look at the country’s past 600 years of history through these wondrous works. [Beijing Times]
In the field of visual art, the year 2015 was abundant in large-scale review exhibitions presented mainly outside of Europe. It began from two exceptional displays in Beijing, which constituted the largest presentation of Polish heritage and visual arts in the area to date. Both of the exhibitions took place at Beijing’s most important museum institutions. The first one, entitled Treasures from Chopin’s Country, was hosted by the National Museum of China in Beijing, the central Chinese institution located at the very heart of the capital, on the East wall of the Tian’anmen square.
Treasures from Chopin’s Country opened on 4th February, 2015. It presented the history of Polish art spanning from medieval sculptures through the masters of 19th century Polish painting to 20th century art. The exhibition was put together by the National Museum in Warsaw, the National Museum of China and Culture.pl, thanks to the initiative and idea of art historian professor Maria Poprzęcka.
The exhibition aroused huge interest, with a daily average of a thousand visitors. It was also widely commented upon by the Chinese media. The closing of Treasures from Chopin’s Country at the National Museum of China in Beijing in May coincided with the opening of the second exhibition of Polish art, entitled The State of Life, which was prepared on an equally large scale by Culture.pl, together with the Art Museum in Łódź and also hosted by the National Art Museum of China.
The State of Life constituted the first presentation of contemporary art from Poland in the Far East to be carried out on such a large scale. The idea of curator Jarosław Lubiak was to present various outlooks onto what the experience of life is like in contemporary Poland, as seen through the prism of art. The exhibition focused on artworks made after 1989, but several iconic pieces of Polish art from the early 20th century were also presented there, including works by Władysław Strzemiński, Tadeusz Kantor and Alina Szapocznikow.
The opening of The State of Life at the NAMoC: let the Polish artists light up your day with a little dose of humour. [People.cn]
For the vast majority of visitors The State of Life was their first encounter with Polish art. With a total of 126 thousand viewers, the exhibition was even more popular than The Treasures from Chopin’s Country.
Following its success in Beijing, The Treasures from Chopin’s Country remained in Asia. Due to the huge interest it aroused among museum officials, as soon as the exhibition closed in Beijing, it was transported to the National Museum in Seoul. In Korea, Polish masterpieces were presented under the title: Sztuka polska: Niezłomny duch (Polish Art – The Constant Spirit).
Kantor had a direct influence on modern Brazilian theatre. (Estadao)
On 18th August, the SESC centre in São Paulo launched the exhibition entitled Tadeusz Kantor Machine. Theatre+happenings+performance art+painting+other means of production. It constituted the largest ever endeavour to present Kantor’s heritage overseas and the most complex international presentation of his work to date. The exhibition was prepared by Culture.pl, the Art Museum in Łódź and SECS, Brazil’s most important cultural-educational and social institution.
Jarosław Suchan and Ricardo Muniz Fernandes curated the display, which encompassed a total of over 130 items – oil, watercolour, and gouache paintings, drawings, collages, stage objects as well as a thorough film and photographic documentation. Alongside the exhibition the project also included a series of performances, artistic interventions and lectures. More than 90 thousand visitors saw the exhibition, with reviews of the event published by Estadão, Folha de São Paulo, O Globo, Veja, Jornal Destak, and Revista Filosofia Ciência & Vida. In early December, the exhibition was honoured with the Troféu APCA special award in the field of theatre, presented by the Society of Art Critics in São Paulo (Associação Paulista de Críticos de Arte).
The list of the year’s outstanding exhibitions is crowned with Andrzej Wróblewski. Recto/Verso, which opened on 17th November at Madrid’s national Reina Sofía museum. 7 thousand visitors came to see it during the first week alone, and Spanish media hailed Wróblewski’s paintings a discovery of the year. El País stated that
Within the significant body of works that Wróblewski created over just one decade, he oscillated between figurative and abstract art, as well as crude socialist realism, and succeeded in conjuring up a method of rising against contradictions.
In accordance with the strategy of the last few seasons, Polish design was presented at all of the important festivals of design and across an array of influential galleries across the world. The exhibitions that took place in Milan, New York and London are worth highlighting among the dozen that took place this year.
In mid-April, designers, producers, journalists, trendsetters and connoisseurs of design from across the world all made their way to Milan’s Design Week. A Polish representation was not to be missed at the event in Northern Italy’s capital. DO IT YOUR WAY. Polish Design in Pieces was the title under which Polish design was presented in the curator’s Ventura Lambratte section of the event. The idea of Culture.pl and curators Ewa Solarz and the Tabanda group consisted in taking the objects off their display platforms and inviting the visitors to try out playing with and putting the Polish designed objects together themselves. The interactive character of DO IT YOUR WAY clearly stood out and turned out to be a hit. Mairi Beautyman, a journalist for Interior Design commented,
There is a boom of creativity happening in Poland, and DO IT YOUR WAY. Polish Design in Pieces is a proof of it. The exhibition, presented during Milan Design Week as part of the annual Salone Internazionale del Mobile, was bursting at the seams with the amount of original products from this Central Eastern European country.
The workshop and exhibition series was completed with a book about the history of Polish design, the second publication of this kind after last year’s Out of the Ordinary. Culture.pl and the 2+3 d magazine collaborated to create VeryGraphic. Polish Designers of the 20th Century – a collection under the editorial guidance of Jacek Mroczyk, Ph.D. It is the first time that a volume this size devoted entirely to Polish 20th century graphic design has been published in English. Designed by Kuba Sowiński, the publication was presented with a prize of honour at the 55th Competition of the Polish Society of Publishers for the Most Beautiful Book of the Year in 2014. It also passed to the final stage of the Dobry Wzór, a prestigious contest of the Institute of Industrial Design.
Steven Heller, the author of more than 160 books on design and visual art and columnist for The Atlantic online and The New York Times Book Review highly recommends the album, stating without hesitation that "Polish graphic design is by far the most original, meaningful and expressive of any Western country.", and the objects that the album presents are a "historical treasure”.
The exhibition that took place as part of WantedDesign was also devoted to graphic design. Brought to audiences under the title Inside Out. Polish Graphic Design and Illustration in the Making and curated by Agata Szydłowska, it was the largest presentation of Polish graphic design and illustration in the United States. Works of Poland’s leading artists were shown inside-out, allowing viewers to get a glimpse of their creative process – from the paper and pencil stage, through to the last click of the mouse and the printed product.
Caroline Williamson from Design Milk described the exhibition as:
completely intriguing with a curated collection of the best Polish graphic design and illustration out there.
The list is closed with an exhibition of Polish ceramics at the annual London Design Festival. Tent London was the venue of What Goes Behind… Contemporary Polish Ceramic Design which drew attention with its well-designed, carefully thought-out and diverse dishes. Delicate, ceramic plates, vases and cups blended in beautifully with the raw furniture by Zieta Prozess Design on which they were presented.
On the 1st of May, 2015, King Roger premiered in London on one of the world’s most important opera stages. It was directed by the Royal Opera House’s artistic director, Kasper Holten, with the ROH orchestra playing under the baton of sir Antonio Pappano. Pappano is one of the most acclaimed contemporary conductors, who previously worked with the New York City Opera, the Liceu in Barcelona, the Frankfurt Opera as well as the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The famous Polish baritone, Mariusz Kwiecień. The New York Times called King Roger a must-see, and The Telegraph described it as a "great artistic triumph”, appreciated with a 5-star rating as well as a "Hot ticket” label.
This year also proved to be a break-through for the I, CULTURE Orchestra project. The Orchestra played in some of the key concert halls in Europe and countries of the Eastern Partnership. This year, young musicians from Poland and the Eastern Partnership countries played an extraordinary concert on the 23rd of August at the Maidan Square of Independence in Kiev. The performance was part of Ukraine’s Independence Day celebrations and its sole cultural event. 55 thousand people listened to the concert which was transmitted by television channels from across the world.
In early October, the music of Górecki filled the concerts halls of the Barbican Centre, the headquarters of the BBC Symphony Orchestra for an entire day. According to The Telegraph, Górecki Total Immersion was all the more precious as audiences were seldom provided with an occasion to truly grasp the composer’s work.
It was also a good year for Polish Jazz and Polish contemporary music which grounded their position more firmly at various festivals – the Spanish Primavera, the German Jazz Ahead, and the British The Great Escape. The musicians who performed at these events had the opportunity to not only perform great gigs and win the hearts of the festival audience, but also to draw more attention to the Polish music scene, along with those who manage the programmes of festivals and clubs.
In 2015, Don’t Panic! We’re from Poland offered an interesting selection of performers with an experimental and sublime taste. The four propositions of groups from the East have such character that the 5th edition of the Primavera might be one of your favourites.
[Álex Jerez, Esquire]
This year’s edition of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, one of the most important events devoted to new music in the UK, was in fact dedicated to the incredibly vivid contemporary music scene from Poland. Throughout the 10 concerts, British audiences had the chance to listen to vocal pyrotechnics, pure minimalism, psychedelic folk, and extreme noise. hcmf// is a leading British festival for contemporary music. It is commonly regarded as the litmus test for the most modern phenomena in new music in all of its varied forms and genres. Both artists and critics alike regard the festival as an event that is not to be missed. Agata Zubel's, performance opened the festival, and her NOT, I composition won the recognition of Paul Driver from the Sunday Times. It was the first presentation of Polish contemporary music on such a large scale at the festival. Another is scheduled to follow as part of next year’s edition.
Concerts are an important, though not the sole part of promoting Polish music abroad. This year was also abundant in fantastic album releases which were made possible thanks to collaboration between the Institute and some major record labels. The Deutsche Grammophon release published as part of the Institute’s Polska music programme deserves a special mention. The album includes Witold Lutosławski's II Piano Concerto played by Krystian Zimerman and the Berlin Philharmonic under the baton of Sir Simona Rattle.
Polish film: more than just a novelty from a foreign country. [Wen Wei Bo]
Maniacs of the cinema from across all of China travelled to Beijing in April for the International Film Festival. This year’s edition brought them a panorama of Polish cinema. A total of 11 films selected by Stefan Laudyn were screened as part of the Focus on Polska programme. Meetings with artists and a premiere of the Chinese version of the Polish Cinema Now album also took place at the festival. It was the first large-scale presentation of Polish cinematography in the Chinese capital, where, in spite of the festival’s name, the actual screenings of foreign films are rather limited.
Apart from the classics, Chinese viewers also got to see the newest films, including Warsaw 44 directed by Jan Komasa, The Heart and the Sweetheart by Jan Jakub Kolski and the Academy-award winner, Ida. The Polish programme was the largest section from any one country to be shown as part of the festival, and it was seen by a public of some 3 thousand viewers.
Krystian Lupa's difficult and dense theatre, which usually demands great concentration even from the cultured European viewer has managed to conquer Asian hearts. After last year’s successful staging of his Persona. Marylin, Tianjin Grand Theatre once again invited Lupa to stage his work on their stage. The award-winning Woodcutters based on Thomas Bernhard’s prose travelled to China in May, with prominent actors of the Teatr Polski in Wroclaw performing at the Tianjin Grand Theatre and the Century Theatre in Beijing in front of a packed audience.
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Chen Ran commented in his article for Beijing News:
The news of Woodcutters, a staging which opened the 2015 Lin Zhao Hua Festival, spread quick and wide in a matter of days. As a result, the staging drew many very important members of the cultural scene.
The four showings were viewed by a total of five thousand spectators, with loud echoes of the show in the media, and an interview with Krystian Lupa published by China’s biggest lifestyle magazine, San Lian. This spectacular success led the Chinese partners to invite Lupa to prepare a new production with them in 2017.
On the 12th of September, the Belarusian city of Brest hosted a premiere of The Forefathers’ Eve (Dziady in the original) by Adam Mickiewicz, a Romantic play whose revolutionary potential has always been stressed. Dziady. Twierdza Brześć (Dziady. Brest Fortress) directed by Paweł Passini was presented as part of the 20th edition of the Biała Wieża festival, one of the most significant theatre events in Belorussia. After an excellent reception, the performance was shown in Poland as part of the Konfrontacje Teatralne festival in Lublin.
Dziady. Brest Fortress, was prepared by the neTTheatre team together with actors of the Brest Academic Drama Theatre, interpreted by Paweł Passini – the director – and Patrycja Dołowy, the author of the script. In their discussion of the play which followed the premiere, the critics argued that it was an
(…) excellent example of how to mingle tradition with modernity, of how to stage the classics in our times. (…) a very important and symbolic staging (Maria Tanana, Lithuania).
And according to Tatiana Gapeeva from Gazeta Brest
Dziady by Paweł Passini can surely be called one of the most extraordinary stagings.
Lyudmila Gromyko of the Mastatstvo:
(…) undoubtably a very significant piece of work for our theatre. In the staging, Paweł Passini transposed the function and aim of theatre as such. It is a differently constructed space and existence of the actor.
This list of theatre events can be crowned with an interdisciplinary theatre, film, and visual art project. At the height of the Edinburgh festival in August, a full-length film documentation of Tadeusz Kantor’s Theatre Cricot 2 staging of the Water Hen – a play by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz – was screened for the very first time. The recently discovered footage presents the same staging with which Kantor travelled to Edinburgh for the 1972 edition of the festival.
The Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture (RSA) also hosted the screening on the 24th of July, 2015. This time, the event was a highlight of the exhibition entitled THE WATER HEN: Kantor, Demarco and the Edinburgh Festival as part of which other archive photographs were also on display along with video recordings of performance art by both Polish and Scottish artist inspired by Kantor’s work. The RSA exhibition was prepared as part of the international programme of celebrations of the centennial anniversary of Tadeusz Kantor’s birth. The worldwide celebratory events were coordinated by Culture.pl, a flagship brand of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. The exhibition aroused great curiosity of the international audience as well as the British press. The Times presented it with four stars.