15.09 – 16.12.2018 Beyond Cybis
curator: Michał Jachuła
collaboration: Julia Leopold
exhibition design: Paulina Tyro-Niezgoda
visual identity: Hakobo
artists: Jan Berdyszak, Henryk Błachnio, Krzysztof Bucki, Tomasz Ciecierski, Jan Cybis, Józef Czapski, Witold Damasiewicz, Andrzej Dłużniewski, Jan Dobkowski, Tadeusz Dominik, Jan Dziędziora, Wojciech Fangor, Stanisław Fijałkowski, Stefan Gierowski, Ryszard Grzyb, Aleksandra Jachtoma, Barbara Jonscher, Jerzy Kałucki, Koji Kamoji, Łukasz Korolkiewicz, Jan Lebenstein, Robert Maciejuk, Zbigniew Makowski, Eugeniusz Geno Małkowski, Jadwiga Maziarska, Leon Michalski, Jerzy Mierzejewski, Jarosław Modzelewski, Jerzy Nowosielski, Kazimierz Ostrowski, Roman Owidzki, Jerzy Panek, Włodzimierz Pawlak, Teresa Pągowska, Erna Rosenstein, Jadwiga Sawicka, Jacek Sempoliński, Jacek Sienicki, Marek Sobczyk, Paweł Susid, Grzegorz Sztwiertnia, Leon Tarasewicz, Jan Tarasin, Tomasz Tatarczyk, Jerzy Tchórzewski, Jacek Waltoś, Ryszard Winiarski, Maria Wollenberg-Kluza, Rajmund Ziemski
This cross-sectional exhibition of Polish 20th and 21st century painting includes a wide range of works by outstanding Polish artists of different generations — representatives of the key currents of art history and contemporary artistic trends. The exhibition features, among others, contemporary classics, artists representing conceptual attitudes, educators and experimenters, as well as artistic personalities that are worth reminding to the broader audience, who are now relegated to the sidelines of art history.
In search for the ‘impossible’ — that is, an objective criterion which can be used to create this kind of problematic review — we decided to use the work of artists from the canon of Polish contemporary art — laureates of the Jan Cybis Award. In addition to the ‘younger’ Katarzyna Kobro Prize initiated by Józef Robakowski, the Cybis Award remains one of the most important distinctions honouring the achievements of outstanding Polish artists, awarded by the artists themselves. Its aim is also to maintain the memory of its patron — one of the key representatives of the Polish art of the 20th century, an excellent colourist and charismatic pedagogue. His artistic creed, ‘Never make concessions, never please anyone. The sense of art is to create, not to instruct, teach, inform, moralise’, is still valid in the context of this award.
Like all art competitions, the Cybis Award arouses emotions and becomes part of a broader discussion on the principles of awarding prizes and distinctions. Who was rewarded and for what? Who were the nominees and who nominated them? Who has been omitted or not taken into account at all? These questions, which often dispute choices and authorities, seem to be inscribed in the formula of contemporary competitions for visual artists in Poland.
One of the first and most important artistic awards in Poland is governed by its own rules; it has its own history and specificity. Established by the Association of Polish Artists in 1973, one year after the death of Jan Cybis, it is awarded for lifetime achievement in the field of painting. It is an award given by artists to other artists, by painters for painters. Its formula remains unchanged to this day — the candidates are suggested by the previous winners, who are members of the jury that decides on the selection of the artist who will be distinguished with the award.
The history of the Jan Cybis Award is tied with the history of the ZPAP, as well as with the recent history of Poland. After the imposition of martial law and the banning of the ZPAP, the continuity of the award till 1988 was ensured by the Association of Art Historians. At the same time, in 1985–1988, the Association of Polish Painters and Graphic Artists, legitimised by the contemporary authorities, granted four distinctions under the same name: to Eugeniusz Geno Małkowski (1985), Leon Michalski (1986), Maria Wollenberg-Kluza (1987) and Kazimierz Ostrowski (1988), whose works are also presented at the exhibition. In 1989, the award returned to the ZPAP for good.
As mentioned above, nurturing the memory of the award’s patron is important for the award itself. Jan Cybis (born 1897 in Wróblin near Głogówek, died in 1972 in Warsaw) was one of the most important Polish painters, promoting purely painterly values. He played an extremely important role as the organiser of post-war artistic life, as well as an educator, professor and rector of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, and teacher to many outstanding artists. At the turn of 1997 and 1998, on the hundredth anniversary of the painter’s birthday, one of the largest retrospective exhibitions in the history of the 20th century, accompanied by an extensive catalogue, was organised in Zachęta. The exhibition, which enjoyed great interest and turnout, featured several hundred paintings by the artist.
The exhibition, arranged in the historical rooms of Zachęta, among others in the Matejko, Narutowicz and Gerson rooms and the enfilade halls on the side of the gallery’s facade, shows the works of all the prize winners in a nonchronological and problematic layout. The names of the individual parts of the exhibition were taken from the titles of the works and concepts that determined the area of interest of the various sections. These are: The Litany of the Painter, Twilight of the Painting, Your Landscape, Untitled, Experience, Space, and Write and Paint.
Artists' works in the Zachęta collection
15.09 – 16.12.2018
Zachęta – National Gallery of Art
pl. Małachowskiego 3, 00-916 Warsaw
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Tuesday – Sunday 12–8 p.m.
Thursday – free entry
ticket office is open until 7.30 p.m.