The Great War
ms2, Ogrodowa 19
Exhibition opening date: 23 November 2018 at 6:00 p.m.
Is modernity, together with its contradictions that culminated in World War I, intrinsically destructive? “The Great War” exhibition does not give a conclusive answer to the above question. Yet, by showing WWI as a clash of diverse, often contradictory, forces, interests and ideas – sometimes modernising, sometimes conservative – it is intended to create space, within which the question resonates and, above all, provide a framework for reflection on the nature of modernity transformed by war.
The exhibition discusses relations between modern art and the experience of war shown from different perspectives. It also highlights differences in how the Great War was depicted in Western European art and in the art of countries of Central and Eastern Europe. To artists from Western Europe, war was a catastrophe while in the countries of Central Europe, including Poland, it was predominantly seen through its outcomes, that is, in the light of regained independence or revolutions which it triggered. The exhibition invites the audience to reflect on these different approaches and their consequences for culture.
The Great War – with its long-term effects including not just the end of the belle époque period but also predetermined global political, social, and cultural changes that we continue to experience until today - has been presented here as an unprecedented cultural occurrence, a circumstance having international impact which reassessed attitudes and approaches in all areas of human life, a generational experience fundamental to the oeuvre of many artists. The exhibition shows how the Great War manifested itself in global art. It brings together works emphasizing specific features of this armed conflict in the history of mankind.
The layout of artworks juxtaposes utopian motivations behind the involvement of artists and intellectuals in the war with the apocalyptical dimension of the global conflict. In order to demonstrate this dynamics, curators have divided the exposition into four parts: The Offensive, The Apocalypse, Mutilation and Decay, and The New Order. The exhibition space has been arranged to offer a historical journey, which begins from hopes, concerns and expectations that accompanied the early stages of the war and takes the audience up to the point of realising the consequences of the conflict and the new balance of powers that emerged after the Great War. In the meantime, while moving along, the viewers are constantly challenged to change the perspective. Visitors get the bird’s-eye view of the war theatre and can embrace its total, apocalyptical dimension that reveals itself in thousands of troops or in advanced technical military devices. They can observe and experience the fragmentation and disintegration of the world around on a previously unimaginable scale. Then the perspective zooms in and focuses on the human dimension of war; attention shifts to individual fate but also to collective attitudes, ethical aspects of taking part in the war and being its victim, as well as to the advancing mechanization of human beings. After having covered these parts of the tour, the visitor reaches the New Order looming somewhere at the war horizon. Paradoxically, this last part of the exhibition reflects a specific relativeness and provisional nature of the new order within which disintegration caused by the war has never got totally internalised.
Works presented at the exhibition come from European and American museums and collections, among others from: Musée royal de l’Armée et d’Historie militaire in Brussels, Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, Museum Folkwang in Essen, Imperial War Museum in London, Tate in London, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Collection Massimo Carpi in Rome, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, La contemporaine. Bibliothèque, archives, musée des mondes contemporains in Paris, Musee de l’Armée Invalides in Paris, Musee Zadkine de la Ville de Paris, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, State Museum of Contemporary Art, Costakis Collection in Thessaloniki, Von der Heydt-Museum in Wuppertal, as well as Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, National Museum in Wroclaw, Jagiellonian Library Museum [Muzeum Biblioteki Jagiellońskiej] in Kraków, and, obviously, from the collection of Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź.
Published in conjunction with this exhibition, a comprehensive and sumptuously illustrated catalogue contains texts by Marek Bartelik, Lidia Głuchowska, Charlotte de Mille, Peter Sloterdijk, and Przemysław Strożek.
Visitors to “The Great War” exhibition will see works of art by artists such as:
Anna Airy, Roberto Marcello Baldessari, Ernst Barlach, Max Beckmann, Sándor Bortnyik, Leon Chwistek, Tadeusz Cyprian, Tytus Czyżewski, Henry Darger, Anne-Pierre De Kat, Otto Dix, Tatiana Glebova, George Grosz, Heinrich Hoerle, Alexej Jawlensky, Paul Joostens, Ernst L. Kirchner, Käthe Kollwitz, Fernand Léger, El Lissitzky, Johannes Molzhan, Paul Nash, Christopher R. W. Nevinson, Solomon Nikritin, Liubov Popova, Georges Rouault, Franz Wilhelm Seiwert, Victor Servranckx, Gino Severini, Henryk Stażewski, Władysław Strzemiński, Félix Vallotton, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Ossip Zadkine, and others.
Subsidised by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage within the framework of Multiannual Programme NIEPODLEGŁA [INDEPENDENT] for the years 2017-2021.