Living Storages: Artibus
01.10.2020 – 07.02.2021 Living Storages: Artibus
artists: Marlene Dumas, Bronisław Kopczyński, Edward Krasiński, Andrzej Pawłowski, Andrzej Sapija, Jadwiga Sawicka, Krzysztof Wodiczko
curator: Michał Jachuła
collaboration: Małgorzata Bogdańska
Zachęta — National Gallery of Art owes both its seat and the mission of popularizing visual arts to the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts (SEFA) established 160 years ago by art enthusiasts and artists. This dedication to art resounds in the inscription “Artibus” (To the Arts) on the building’s façade. From the very beginning, this mission has included collecting contemporary art – then and today.
Entangled in history and politics, our institution has always been interested in contemporary art – different in the 19th, 20th or 21st centuries. Even though the Zachęta has never had the status of a museum, building the material capital of art was and remains to be an important part of the gallery’s mission. The collection, as shown by history and reflected by the current inventory of the national art gallery, has been subject to change just like a living organism. In 1945, the oldest part of the SEFA collection, including Jan Matejko’s Battle of Grunwald, was transferred to the National Museum in Warsaw. Under the auspices of the Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions, the collection mainly acquired works related to the institution’s core activity, while from in the 1990s the Zachęta, already as an independent gallery of contemporary art began to create a new collection which has been systematically expanded to this day.
On the one hand, the Zachęta’s collection proposes an overview of contemporary art created and presented in Poland, and on the other– it is a result of subject matter and political choices. The works in the institution's inventory clearly echo the “eternal” discourse over the nature of a collection – the multi-voiced decisions and preferences concerning the collected works. Like other museums and collections, the Zachęta’s resources feature both outstanding and average works related to the programme of temporary exhibitions, some that have lost their vitality and some that are still valid for new generations of viewers.
The selection of works at the current show reflects all stages of the institution’s formation and the collection’s creation: from the founding of the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts, through the existence of the Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions, to the present day, when the Zachęta has become a national art gallery. Andrzej Pawłowski’s photographs from the series Genesis evoke the gestures of creating something “new”. Marlene Dumas’s drawing reminds us of the dramatic death of President Gabriel Narutowicz in 1922, shot at the Zachęta by the painter Eligiusz Niewiadomski. The assassination of the first president of the Republic of Poland coincides with the creation of Bronisław Kopczyński’s watercolor depicting the gallery’s building. This, in turn, corresponds to Krzysztof Wodiczko’s work on women as violence victims, presented as a video projection on the Zachęta’s façade. Jadwiga Sawicka uses cultural advertisements as a vehicle for “agitation” to show how art institutions should work, and Andrzej Sapija exemplifies the concept of a set. This visual-numerical record on paper shows in an abstract way a set of artistic objects with assigned inventory numbers. Using the image of Józef Simmler’s painting Death of Barbara Radziwiłłówna (1860) – a part of Edward Krasiński’s 1997 installation reiterates the exhibition of this contemporary artist at the Zachęta, and at the same time presents an incarnation of the first art work purchased by the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts.
From the very beginning, the institution’s collection has been stored exclusively in the Zachęta’s main building. The expansion of the building in the early 1990s made it possible to create a professional space for storing works. Now we have decided to have it optimized, renovated, and modernized. The project that will be carried out over the next year will also be an opportunity to present selected works and peek into a specially arranged temporary storeroom, where most of the works from our collection will be kept during the renovation. The show Living Storages: Artibus will inaugurate the series prepared as part of this project.
Artists' works in the Zachęta collection
Living Storages: Artibus
01.10.2020 – 07.02.2021
Zachęta – National Gallery of Art
pl. Małachowskiego 3, 00-916 Warsaw
See on the map
Tuesday – Sunday 12–8 p.m.
Thursday – free entry
ticket office is open until 7.30 p.m.