Instagrammers taking over an art gallery, paintings by Norman Leto, Stefan Gierowski and Edi Hila, as well as a historical look at the relationship between art and politics, all coincide with the centenary of Poland’s independence. The year 2018 will bring back evergreens, feminist exhibitions and will take us on a journey through Polish and European history – farther than we have ever been before.
Paulina Ołowska, Amoresques: An Intellectual Cocktail of Female Erotica, 26th January– 30th March 2018, Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw
It took Paulina Ołowska a while to come back to Warsaw with a solo exhibition – she was mostly focused on organising more intimate events in smaller towns, such as Willa Kadenówka and Rabka Zdrój.
Fours years after her major exhibition in the Zachęta - National Gallery, and after a number of exhibitions, at Metro Pictures gallery in New York, to mention just one. On 26th January 2018, opened the Amoresque: An Intellectual Cocktail of Female Erotica exhibition at the Foksal Gallery Foundation. Alongside her own works, Ołowska presents illustrations by Maja Berezowska (from the collection of the National Library in Warsaw). The exhibition is accompanied by several film screenings and lectures.
The Girl May Seem Strong But Inside She Barely Holds On, 23rd February – 14th April 2018, lokal_30, Warsaw
Last year, Zofia Krawiec caused quite a stir around selfie feminism. Despite some critical voices regarding its emancipatory nature, Polish selfie feminism continues to grow. In February, lokal_30 gallery presents an exhibition entitled The Girl May Seem Strong but Inside She Barely Holds On, where female visual artists are joined by Instagram's #sadgirls. The exhibition is curated by no other than Zofia Krawiec herself.
Edi Hila, Painter of Transformation, 2nd March – 6th May 2018, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw
One of the Museum of Modern Art’s fortes are exhibitions of lesser-known Eastern European artists. In recent years, it has showcased works by Július Koller and Maria Bartuszova. This March brings the Painter of Transformation exhibition, a retrospective of Edi Hila.
The Albanian-born artist is a perceptive witness of the era of post-Soviet transformation not only in his home country but in Eastern Europe as a whole. His personal story reflects different kinds of political turmoil that Albania was embroiled in throughout the years. Hila always leaned toward classicism and Renaissance traditions, and it was these that landed him in a ‘re-education' facility in the 1970s. He refused to conform to the then-dominant social-realist convention. The life of the facility was documented by Hila in detail in his series of realistic, existential drawings on display at the exhibition.
Joanna Rajkowska, The Suiciders, 22nd March– 9th May 2018, Trafostacja Sztuki, Szczecin
A new cycle of works by Joanna Rajkowska will be presented this year at the Trafostacja Sztuki in Szczecin. Rajkowska, who became known for her site-specific projects in public spaces, presents a very intimate project, which takes on her relationships with the titular ‘suiciders’. Women who either tried to take their own life in a terrorist attack or encouraged others to do so. These relationships, however, are based on a lack of understanding. As the artist herself puts it:
My point is that I have never reached such border, such state of body and mind. Sitting in a comfortable European country, we can only feel Schadenfreude, an inner satisfaction these atrocities do not happen to us.
Stefan Gierowski, 6th April – 13th May, Galeria Bielska BWA, Bielsko-Biała
The Bielska BWA Gallery presents a large retrospective of the work of Stefan Gierowski, one of the most important Polish painters of the 20th century. His works combine many elements which characterise of early-20th century art. Władysław Strzemiński’s unism and post-impressionist colourism come together with booming post-war tendencies in abstract painting, such as art informel.
In the 1940s, Gierowski was still a student of Kraków’s Academy of Fine Arts, where his professors included Zbigniew Pronaszko, who was associated with formists and was one of the groups to spearhead avant-garde in Poland.
After moving to Warsaw, Gierowski himself came to be a professor at Warsaw’s Academy of Fine Arts, instructing the next generations of painters, including the future members of the artistic formation Gruppa.
Other Dances, April 2018, Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw
The walls of cultural institutions have become more permeable and have welcomed more and more choreography projects rather than traditional performances – a breath of fresh air. In April 2018, Other Dances opens at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art. It will present projects which combine elements from visual arts, theatre and choreography presented in Poland over the last two decades. The showcased artists are no longer inspired by Polish classics Tadeusz Kantor or Jerzy Grotowski, but rather look up to American neo-avant-garde artists or draw on postmodern dance.
Nomadic State, April – May 2018, BWA Wrocław
The Nomadic State duo (Stach Szumski and Karolina Mełnicka) are some of the most intriguing young artists in Poland today. For the purpose of this new project, they set out on a journey eastward. The results of their nomadic trip will be presented in April at BWA Wrocław. What were they looking for? As common tropes suggest – spirituality. However, they came to find mysticism in rather unconventional places – in big cities, urban Siberia or AliExpress auctions.
Cricot is Coming!, 11th May – 30th August, Cricoteka, Kraków
This spring, Cricoteka, the Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor, will shed light on the birth of kantoresque theatre with an exhibition devoted to the first Cricot theatre.
Cricot was an experimental theatre of the interwar period, bringing together artists, writers and critics. It was one of the most vibrant cultural phenomena in Poland at the time. It was the inspiration for the foundation of the Cricot 2 theatre, established by Tadeusz Kantor, Maria Jarema and Kazimierz Mikulski. Cricot Is Coming! is the first monographic exhibition devoted to Cricot, which will present unique exhibits, many of which have never been shown to the public before.
Norman Leto, Paintings, 14th June – 28th July, Jan Tarasin Art Gallery in Kalisz
The winner of this year’s Polityka Passports Award, Norman Leto, is still gathering praise for his film Photon, which he had devoted his time to in recent years. However, we must not forget, that he remains a prolific painter. It was two years ago in Sopot that his paintings were last on display. This summer, the artist will present his newest works in an exhibition curated by Michał Lasota (from Stereo Art Gallery, which represents Leto) in Kalisz.
Coming-of-age Perspective, 23rd June – 30th September, The Silesian Museum, Katowice
Any exhibition curated by Anda Rottenberg instantly becomes a sensation. It’s certainly going to be the case for the Coming-of-age Perspective opening at The Silesian Museum this summer. Works by three of the most remarkable Polish 20th-century artists, Alina Szapocznikow, Andrzej Wróblewski and Andrzej Wajda, will be juxtaposed. Wajda, before he devoted himself entirely to the cinema, studied at Kraków’s Academy of Fine Arts and was friends with Wróblewski. The exhibition will explore similarities in the artists’ experiences, both personal (the premature death of their fathers) and generational (coming of age in the turbulent times of the World War II). It left a clear imprint on their work.
Koji Kamoji, June – August 2018, Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw
Koji Kamoji, associated with the Foksal Gallery, is a Japanese artist, who settled in Poland back in the 1960s. His works have been on display at the Foksal Gallery, as well as at other key cultural institutions and in collections all over Poland. Although he has yet to have an individual retrospective exhibition. In June at the at the Zachęta - National Gallery of Art, we’ll have the opportunity to follow the metamorphosis of Kamoji’s artistic language – on one hand minimalistic, raw, using only basic symbols and materials, on the other, highly poetic, instantly bringing haikus to mind.
Trauma & Revival: Post-War in the Art of the East and West, 21st September – 16th December, Bunkier Sztuki Art Gallery, Kraków
This autumn will be dominated by historical exhibitions – not all of them linked to the centenary of Poland's independence. Kraków's Bunkier Sztuki will be summing up its long-term project Trauma & Revival, organised in cooperation with Brussels’ BOZAR and the Contemporary Art Centre in Riga. The exhibition explores the nature of the relationship between countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain as well as different modernisation projects in Western Europe, the United States and the former Soviet Union.
Avant-garde and State, 26th October 2018 – February 2019, Museum of Art in Łódź
In the wake of Poland’s centenary celebrations, Dorota Monkiewicz is curating an exhibition entitled Avant-garde and State at Museum of Art in Łódź.
Political engagement and art's effectiveness were among key questions for avant-garde artists. Over the years, they remained but also morphed and underwent numerous ideological changes. The exhibition will present a wide array of different artists' approaches to political life. Its central question is: what is the political potential of a work of art?
Independent – 1918, 26th October 2018 – 27th January 2019, National Museum in Warsaw
A central point of the celebrations of the centenary of Poland's independence. Independent – 1918 is slated to open in the autumn of 2018 at the National Museum in Warsaw. It will be curated by Piotr Rypson, vice- director of the museum, art historian and author of the acclaimed Czerwony Monter (editor’s translation: The Red Montagist, recently published by Karakter publishing house), a monograph of Mieczysław Berman, one of the most important Polish graphic artists of the 20th century. –The exhibition will be focused on depictions of historical events as well as the changing perceptions of art occurring at the time.
Originally written in Polish, translated by MS, March 2018