Allan Sekula Polonia and Other Fables

12.12.2009 – 28.02.2010 Allan Sekula Polonia and Other Fables

Zachęta National Gallery of Art

curator: Karolina Lewandowska
cooperation: Anna Tomczak

The exhibition Polonia and Other Fables is the first individual show of Allan Sekula’s work in Poland. It links his oldest with his newest works, but it is not a classic retrospective show. It is constructed around two major themes: social engagement and the search for a zone in which the private and personal are linked with the universal and the commonplace.                      

This theme is most strongly accented in Allan Sekula’s newest work, realized specially for Zachęta and for the famous university gallery, The Renaissance Society, in Chicago. The title work Polonia and OtherFables, in which the artist explores very personal themes linked to his family’s Polish roots on his father’s side, and to the wider question of emigration, the Chicago Polonia and Polish-American relations in general as they are visible in business or politics. The presentation of this work is accompanied by photographs (shown in the form of slide projections) produced by Sekula during his first visit to Poland, in the winter of 1990 (Walking on Water, 1990/1995). These form an important counterpoint to the photos produced in 2009. They show our country at the beginning of the changes which led to Poland’s entry to NATO and to the European Union.               

The remainder of the exhibition is a now almost canonical selection of Allan Sekula works that maintain both the aforementioned element of social engagement, of critical analysis of the space nearest at hand (family, work), as well as a critique of the language of documentary as it is strongly codified in American photography. Amongst these are Meditations on a Triptych ­– the first project in which Sekula used a critical text as an integral part of the photographic work; Aerospace Folktales – a photographic-textual analysis of the average white collar American family based on the artist’s family; Waiting for Tear Gas – one of Sekula’s most famous projections, documenting the first anti-globalist protest that took place in Seattle in 1999; and a prologue of the documentary film not yet shown in Poland, Lottery of the Sea which can be interpreted as a summary of the monumental work, produced over the course of a number of years, Fish Story (which will be shown at the exhibition in its book form).                

Allan Sekula (born 1951), one of the best known American artists of his generation, is valued above all for his photographic and film projects of a documentary character. From the beginning of the 1970s, when as a student of amongst others John Baldessari and Herbert Marcuse, he began his artistic activity, he has submitted both the founding myths of capitalist society, and the conventional ways of representing and receiving art to profound critique. Sekula believes, and on many occasions has confirmed this both in his work and through his social and intellectual position, that art, although it cannot overthrow that order, can unmask it and break its ideological hegemony.             

Rather than a classic catalogue, the exhibition will be accompanied by a book with the artist’s newest projects and unusually interesting texts: by Allan Sekula himself, as well as by Hilde Van Gelder, Katarzyna Ruchel-Stockmans, Hamza Walker and Karolina Lewandowska.             

In preparation is also an anthology of Allan Sekula’s texts on the questions of photography where can be found such famous theoretical interventions, as Reading the Archive or On the Invention of Photographic Meaning. This collection is published jointly by Zachęta and the University of Warsaw Press.      

Related media
  • Grafika obiektu:
    mediateka / films
  • Grafika obiektu:
    mediateka / folders / Texts
  • Grafika obiektu: Allan Sekula. Polonia and Other Fables
    mediateka / posters
    Allan Sekula. Polonia and Other Fables
Related events
  • Grafika wydarzenia:
    29.01.2010 (Fri) 00:00
    Zachęta – National Gallery of ArtZachęta
  • Publikacje Zachęty
    44,00 złAllan Sekula. Polonia i inne opowieści (only in Polish)


Allan Sekula
Polonia and Other Fables
12.12.2009 – 28.02.2010

Zachęta National Gallery of Art
pl. Małachowskiego 3, 00-916 Warsaw
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The exhibition supported by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
The exhibition supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.
partners of the project: The Renaissance Society At the University Of Chicago, Ludwig Museum Contemporary Art Budapest, Belfast Exposed
sponsors of the gallery: LEX, Netia
sponsors of the opening ceremony: A.Blikle, Freixenet
media patronage: Gazeta Wyborcza, Polityka, TOK FM, The Warsaw Voice, Art&Business,,, empik