Avant-garde and the State
ms1, Więckowskiego 36
Museum's team Collaboration
Opening of the exhibition: 26 October 2018, at 18:00 hrs
The Avant-garde - what social purposes and ideologies did it serve? What were its relations with state-forming, national and political processes of the time? Where are its boundaries and how do they relate to the borders of countries and ethnic divisions? The exhibition "Avant-garde and the State" will attempt to answer these questions by showing the complexity of the ties that existed between the avant-garde movements and turbulent political changes in the 20th century. The focus of this exhibition, one of the largest in the history of the Muzeum Sztuki, in terms of the number of works presented, will be the avant-garde movements in Poland shown, above all, in relation to broader political and state-forming processes which were taking place in Central and Eastern Europe in those times.
The exhibition will cover the period from the First World War up to the early 1980s. This will let it show how the transformation of the avant-garde movements in Poland - from expressionism and formism of the second decade of the twentieth century to neo-avant-garde and "post-propaganda" of the 1970's and 80's - overlapped with the existence of two states of different territorial ranges, different regimes and ethnic composition of population. We will also see how these changes affected the limits of the impact of the Polish avant-garde, which did not correspond with the country's borders.
While the influence gained by the avant-garde movements in the 1920s was extensive and supranational - stretching between Kiev, Berlin, Moscow and Paris – already in the 1930s they shrunk both in the East and in the West, and the first plan was taken over by the internal problems of the countries. In Poland, for example, they were: the economic crisis, the limitation of democracy, the problems of national minorities, the activity of trade unions and associations. Against this background, starting from the 1920s, we observe a variety of attitudes of avant-garde artists fascinated by very different concepts of the state: from the nation state, through the state of the world proletariat, to anarchist anti-state ideas.
After the Second World War, during the long period of the Polish People's Republic (Polish abbr. PRL), apart from the shifting of borders, also in the artistic world, there emerged artists’ new attitudes, inspired by the evolving political situation, such as: compromise, silence, safe "abstract art autonomy", avant-garde revisionism, or - finally - nihilistic negation.
The exhibition will present this changing attitude of the avant-garde artists to the state in the period of the Second Republic of Poland and of the PRL. The adopted time range will allow to follow and compare the movement of meanings within such themes as social engagement and leftist tendencies, sovereignty and independence, artistic freedom and artists’ material situation, and, finally, a way of historicizing the pre-war avant-garde due to the functioning of art in the PRL period.
The exhibition will fill all three floors of ms1 with over six hundred works by the artists from various Polish and foreign collections. Among the creators of subsequent generations of the avant-garde whose works await visitors in the Muzeum Sztuki are: Kazimierz Malewicz, El Lissitzky, Władysław Strzemiński, Alexander Archipenko, Henryk Stażewski, Stefan and Franciszka Themerson, Stanisław Kubicki, Tadeusz Kantor, Ewa Partum, Józef Robakowski, Maria Jarema, Zbigniew Libera, KwieKulik duo (Zofia Kulik i Przemysław Kwiek), Zbigniew Warpechowski, Natalia LL or the artistic group Łódź Kaliska.
Exhibition space arrangement: Robert Rumas
Exhibition space visual identity: Beata Grabska, Adam Sikorski
Initiators: Marek Janiak, Zofia Łuczko (Łódź Kaliska)
Graphic design: Ryszard Bienert
Coordination: Katarzyna Mróz, Monika Wesołowska
Editorial coordination: Andżelika Bauer
Co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage under the Multiannual Programme NIEPODLEGLA (INDEPENDENT) for 2017-2021.