Zachęta — National Gallery of Art in Warsaw, is the organizer of the exhibitions in the Polish Pavilion both for Biennale Arte and Biennale Architettura, as well as the custodian of the building. The gallery’s director acts as the pavilion commissioner.
This year marks the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Polish Pavilion in Venice. To commemorate this anniversary, in this issue of the Zachęta Online Magazine, we present celebratory text about the anniversary, archival materials devoted to Polish participation and we recall the award-winning exhibitions. A postcard issued for this occasion is available in the Zachęta Art Bookshop.
The Discomfort of Evening is the title of the latest exhibition at the Zachęta, presenting the youngest generation of artists in Poland – both female and male. As curator Magdalena Komornicka writes in her introduction to the exhibition: “Youth is a problematic and blurred category, and observing artistic phenomena through a generational lens may seem incongruent with the contemporary times, which is why age is not a defining criterion.” This issue of the Zachęta Online Magazine is therefore devoted to the exhibition and generational experience.
At the beginning of March at the Zachęta, we opened Mariusz Wilczyński’s exhibition built around a single film – Kill It and Leave This Town, the full-length debut of the well-known animator. This is an opportunity for the Zachęta Online Magazine to take a closer look at the artist’s work, but also to bring to mind other presentations devoted to animation. Kill It… is part of a series of exhibitions initiated in 2013 presenting the key figures in the history of Polish animated film: Julian Antonisz and Kazimierz Urbański (with Joanna Kordjak as the curator of both projects).
We welcomed the New Year at the Zachęta in an avant-garde spirit. Curated by Maria Brewińska, the exhibition Between Collectivism and Individualism – Japanese Avant-garde in the 1950s and the 1960s has enabled us not only to learn more about Japanese art and its accompanying social and cultural contexts, but also to see works rarely shown outside Japan. In turn, Joanna Kordjak has recalled Teresa Gierzyńska, an extraordinary artist whose exhibition Women Live for Love shows the author’s fascinating experiments with photography as the medium, as well as the feminist dimension of her work.
When the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts (Zachęta means encouragement) was established in 1860, women would not be accepted as its members for the next several decades, according to the association’s statute. Despite this, women are behind the story of the Zachęta both in the past and today. Ludwika Górecka, née Linde, was the first of them. Her generous gift – a tenement house and a plot of land at Małachowskiego Square – made it possible to extend the Gallery’s building, erected in 1900, and to support the Society financially until the outbreak of World War II. Like many women in history, the donor did not boast about her gift, remaining in the shadows and acting primarily for the benefit of Polish culture. Nevertheless, the Society decided to honour Górecka’s extraordinary generosity… by offering her honorary membership.
Views are coming to an end. The competition, co-organised with Deutsche Bank Polska since 2003, has presented the most interesting attitudes on the young artistic scene. The nominees and winners of the award include the names of the most important visual artists in Poland today, and the nearly twenty-year history of Views is not only an interesting look at the history of contemporary art, but also at Polish reality. In mid-October 2021, we announced the winners of the 10th edition of the competition. They are the Archive of Public Protests, Krzysztof Maniak, Jana Shostak, Mikołaj Sobczak and Weronika Wysocka.
For nearly 30 years, the Jerzy Stajuda Art Criticism Award has been an important distinction for those who write about art. After the artist’s death in 1992, the Award was established by his friends, who still form the award committee. Stajuda – painter, graphic artist, critic, music lover – was a prominent figure in Warsaw’s artistic community. Visual artists, composers, writers and actors used to meet in his flat in Wiejska Street. “He had a great personal charm, part of which was also that he was very modest, even shy. That’s why he felt more at ease when he took a shot. He was always ready to have some fun, have a nice laugh, do something offbeat” – recalls Ola Semenowicz, Jerzy Stajuda’s long-time partner, who talked to Karolina Zychowicz about the artist, their mutual relations, friendships and social life in the 1980s. This conversation opens the 32nd issue of the Zachęta Online Magazine devoted to privacy and intimacy.
In early 2021, Zachęta together with the British Council organised the first Polish competition for disabled artists, inspired by the Europe Beyond Access programme. ‘Social awareness of the problems disabled artists may face when wishing to present their portfolios, apply for grants, or pursue their work is not high. Difficulties may result from social prejudices and beliefs, communication barriers and the limited accessibility of artistic programmes’, the organisers wrote in the announcement. More than 80 artists — professional and amateur — replied to it.
Since 2018, Zachęta has been running summer projects under the shared title of Małachowski Square. This year’s edition combines artistic and educational activities, once again opening the space of the square to viewers, artists and activists. One of the events is the programme Living a Feminist Life, which is a continuation of Languages of Radical Sensitivity – online discussions and workshops from autumn last year. The 30th issue of Zachęta Online Magazine, published in July, was inspired by this programme and deals with issue of language and sensitivity to exclusions and otherness.
The latest issue of the Zachęta Online Magazine is slightly different because, despite its number 29, it is the first issue of the publication’s newest incarnation. Beginning from June 2021, the magazine has its own website, where we’ll publish première issues each month (but where you’ll also find all the archival issues). We invite you to read the current issue, themed on socialist realism, which is recalled now in an international context thanks to the exhibition Cold Revolution. Central and Eastern European Societies in Times of Socialist Realism, 1948–1959.
We do not know when we will be able to invite you to live exhibitions … but behind the closed doors of Zachęta the work is in full swing. Our educators, this time as curators, are preparing the next installment of Living Storages. Didactic Show is a game of didactic threads present in the works from our collection. This selection could not be complete without the series A – Z (Educational Cabinets) by Andrzej Tobis.
The latest edition of our online magazine has been inspired by Joanna Rajkowska’s exhibition at the Zachęta. We recommend reading the two texts accompanying the event. The first was written by the American poet, artist and playwright Robert Yerachmiel Sniderman, who tackled the subject of Rhizopolis by taking the perspective of a resident of the underground city.
No. 22 of our online magazine brings materials – textual, visual and audiovisual – related to our current exhibitions. We begin with Joanna Rajkowska’s exceptional project Rhizopolis. The installation takes us on a tour to a suburban city of roots, which – according to the story of the futuristic film made by the artist – gives shelter to a handful of survivors. The tree roots build a new homestead, but also ensure survival. The incredible space of Rhizopolis must be experienced with all one’s senses. Equally important though is the idea behind the project whose heroes are… trees. And this is trees, their life-giving power and the risk that we expose them (and ourselves) to that Rajkowska talks about with Urszula Zajączkowska, a botanist and poet.
Zachęta is Warsaw’s oldest art gallery. Its history began back in 1860, when the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts (TZSP) was established. In 1900, the building at 3 Małachowskiego Square (then Evangelical Square) was erected. After the war, it was nationalized, first as the seat of the Zachęta Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions (CBWA), after 1989 as the Zachęta State Art Gallery and, finally, as Zachęta – the National Art Gallery. The TZSP was reactivated in the 1990s, an association supporting the gallery today, but also an heir to the values represented by the historical Society. This is the story of Zachęta in a nutshell. The date 13 December marks 160 years from this founding moment. That’s why, the latest issue of our online magazine tells the story of Zachęta – both historical and contemporary – as seen through the prism of the people who have created this place.
This edition of our magazine was supposed to focus on the new exhibition that we originally planned to open this coming Friday, or on 27 November. Sculpture in Search of a Place is a cross-sectional narrative about the Polish sculpture in the 20th and 21st centuries in the original arrangement by Anna Maria Leśniewska – an expert in the field and curator of Barbara Zbrożyna’s and Magdalena Więcek’s exhibitions at the Zachęta – showing the growing cross-media character of this traditional field of art. Although we will need to wait a while for the premiere of the exhibition, in the 18th edition of our Magazine we will air our archives to look for texts about sculpture and sculptors.
“Every day, for the past two months, I’ve been coming up to these photos. And then I quickly move away. I need some air. It’s hard to breathe around them. Just like in an old house of even older people that nobody cleans any more. These prints smell of disease, drugs, steel, zoos, and hay full of manure on a hot, stuffy day” – Mira Marcinów writes about a series of photos by Joanna Piotrowska documenting animal cages and enclosures. Her essay Cage and Play opens the sixteenth issue of the Zachęta Online Magazine, devoted not only to animal themes.
Joanna Piotrowska is a visual artist and photographer living and working in London. Her individual exhibition – Frowst – can be seen at the Zachęta from 18 September. On our website, you can also read the 15th issue of the Zachęta Online Magazine, which opens with an interview with the artist. “The subject of touch is present in many of my works. First in the Frowst series, in the context of intimate family relationships. It is also present in the video showing hands in a therapeutic gesture. Next, in subsequent works, in the act of physical conflict, or self-defence. What matters to me is to create such connections and segue from animal to person, from person to house, from house to cage, from cage to shelter, safety, intimacy, and touch. I keep walking between these points of reference, trying to examine the relationship between them” – Piotrowska told Magdalena Komornicka in March. In turn, in the text Disease without a patient by philosopher Joanna Bednarek, you can read about the relationships of power in Piotrowska’s works.
We talked about the Zachęta’s collection already in the eighth issue of our online magazine. In the latest, fourteenth issue, we revisit the subject of collecting, although this time not only with an eye on our collection. We were prompted by the major renovation of the Zachęta’s art storerooms. This is a real opportunity for anyone who would like to take a look “behind the scenes” of our gallery – for the next year, the works from the collection will be stored in the lower exhibition halls, where a specially arranged temporary storeroom will be created. At the same time, in the Small Salon, we will present the Zachęta’s collection curated by Michał Jachuła. You will be able to see the first exhibition titled Live storerooms: Artibus already from the beginning of October. And now let us walk you through different versions of a number of collections that have been displayed at the Zachęta.
Monika Sosnowska – one of the most outstanding Polish contemporary sculptors – has prepared her latest exhibition especially for the Zachęta. We are opening this exhibition today, in the ‘new normality’, without a vernissage, but we are going to celebrate the event all day long. We invite you to visit the Zachęta from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission to Sosnowska’s exhibition is free; you only need to collect a free ticket at the gallery’s ticket office.
Since 2018, summer at the Zachęta has not been only associated with exhibitions, meetings or workshops, but also with Małachowski Square, which has become a natural extension of our gallery’s space. For two years, the square has remained a car-free zone, friendly to the gallery’s visitors and passers-by. This summer we will also mark our presence in this place, even though we have had to modify many of our plans. Invariably, you can count on watching Marek Sobczyk’s Simple Rainbow again there.
“If we do not now dare everything, the fulfilment of that prophecy, re-created from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water, the fire next time!” – James Baldwin wrote in 1962. This quote became an inspiration for Maria Brewińska, who prepared the exhibition Alienations or The Fire Next Time at the Zachęta in 2019. Seven films by seven outstanding international artists showed the face of modern alienation: from social through racial to ecological issues. This spring, the second edition of the exhibition was scheduled to open at the Silesian Museum in Katowice. Unfortunately, the plans have changed, but Alienation remains acutely topical today. In the ninth issue of the Zachęta Online Magazine we recall, among others, this exhibition.
Only until this Sunday you can see the exhibition Videotapes. Early video art (1965–1976) at the Zachęta. We invite you to visit to our gallery and enjoy this unique exhibition, and while you are at home, we recommend the latest issue of the Zachęta On-line Magazine dedicated to our collection and collecting.
In the non-pandemic reality, the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale would have already been taking place, featuring the exhibition Trouble in Paradise at the Polish Pavilion. Despite the original plans to postpone the opening from May to August, the organizers have decided that the International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia will take place in 2021. So waiting for the next biennale, we devote the latest edition of the Zachęta On-line Magazine to architecture – not only at the Polish Pavilion, but also at the Zachęta.
Dear Readers, we’re back at the Zachęta and the Zachęta Project Room! Observing new rules, with visors, masks and gloves on, but already in our building, open to the public. Whew! Since 13 May, we’ve been gradually opening our exhibitions: Videotapes, Ahmed Cherkaoui in Warsaw, The Flying Lesson and Being Paul Cézanne at the ZPR. At the same time we have been constantly present on-line, as we haven’t been able to meet you at the gallery for discussions, guided tours or workshops. So we keep working both in the real and virtual world, getting used to this two-track reality, which will probably here to stay a little while longer. Also this message will have a dual form, as I’m writing it both as an employee of our Education Department and editor of Zachęta On-line Magazine.
“If I had not played music, it would have taken me longer to get to the core of what I am doing in painting. A way of discerning what is real in the work. It can also give one the ability to be more daring. . . . Not to be afraid to have a sense of play and to approach a painting with a kind of controlled abandon,” said John Lurie in 2015. The exhibition of paintings by the famous American musician, also known in Poland thanks to Jim Jarmusch’s movies, was prepared at the Zachęta by Stanisław Welbel and Karolina Sulich. You can read about the artist’s journey from creating music to painting in the interview that the curators conducted with him, which opens the latest edition of our on-line magazine.
“Did you feel mature before the age of Christ, or after?” – Maria Brewińska asks Rafał Bujnowski in an interview. “Naturally after. That’s probably related to mental stabilization. I wouldn’t be able to single out one breakthrough event, just like in a film: something happens and suddenly everything looks differently. It’s a process, more gradual than an explosive or dramatic turn of events.” In the fourth issue of our Magazine, built around the theme of “time”, we revisit the artist’s individual exhibition in 2016, titled 2066.
”From my experience I know what it means to be an immigrant or a refugee. […] I have no relatives in Saint Petersburg any more. I hate the question: Are you going back home for Christmas? Because where’s that home?” – Anna Ermolaeva observed in 2015. An interview with the artist, a Russian dissident living in Vienna since 1989, became the starting point for the third issue of the Zachęta On-line Magazine devoted to various forms of travel.
The starting point for the second issue of Zachęta Online Magazine is a conversation with Zbigniew Warpechowski – the precursor of performance art in Poland, author of installations, painter, poet, and philosopher. It was conducted in 2014 by Dominik Kuryłek (co-curator of the exhibition together with Joanna Kordjak) on the occasion of the artist’s retrospective “It”. Warpechowski debuted as a performer in 1967, while The Dialogue with a Fish (in the Zachęta collection) remains one of his most famous performances.
June 2013 saw the first issue of Zachęta Magazine – a periodical devoted to the gallery’s current exhibitions and activities. Today, when we are all facing the new experience of social distancing and we can’t meet our visitors at exhibitions and events, we would like to take you on a journey through the Zachęta’s history – both near and more distant. Zachęta On-line Magazine, whose premiere issue we are just launching will feature regular presentations of our resources – texts, exhibitions, works form our collection, documentary materials, and publications.