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The Avant-garde Museum – virtual presentation

The goal of the venture is to develop a virtual presentation of the outcomes of a multiannual project titled “The Avant-garde Museum” combining cultural studies and research carried out to demonstrate to foreign audiences the importance of self-organization efforts made by Polish avant-garde artists – which ultimately led to the establishment of the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, one of the two the oldest existing museums of modern art in the world – and placing it in the context of other, similar developments that were taking place in other countries at that time. The project will tell the story of how the International Collection of Modern Art of the “a.r.” group emerged in Łódź in the 1930s and contrast it with the history of the network of Museums of Artistic Culture established in post-revolutionary Russia, the Société Anonyme organization established in New York, and the Kabinett der Abstrakten from the Hannover Provinzialmuseum.

The strategic partner of the project is e-flux (https://www.e-flux.com/), a renowned and prestigious American publishing platform with global reach, which carries out and disseminates projects that describe strains of critical discourse surrounding contemporary art and culture internationally. In addition, in artistic circles, e-flux is perceived as a specialist platform for the exchange of information on major cultural events to which it also ensures the best possible visibility.

”The Avant-garde Museum” is a pioneering project that emerged from many years of research conducted by the team of the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź and is devoted to initiatives of avant-garde artists designed to create collections of artworks and establish art institutions.

The concept of the project was born of the need to gain better understanding of our own institutional heritage and, above all, of the conviction that we need to reassess the accepted views on the relationship between the avant-garde and museums. The currently prevailing narrative presents them in opposition to each other and their coming together as nothing else than the failure of one or the other: either the destruction of a museum or the neutralization of the avant-garde. However, alongside this narrative, another narrative can be developed around the avant-garde artists who undertake efforts to establish their own museum institutions, acting on the conviction that these can become tools serving to accomplish the objectives of avant-garde art. The project delivered by the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź is intended to bring this lesser-known history closer to us.

One of the outcomes of the project is a publication under the same title released in 2020 in two language editions, Polish and English, which is a collection of critical essays by eminent researchers based in Poland and in other countries, including Maria Gough, Rebecca Uchill, Julian Myers, and Joanna Szupińska, accompanied by a wide selection of source texts and a rich iconography.

Efforts in this area will be crowned with an international exhibition that will present, among others, the history of the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź in the above-discussed narrative framework. The opening is planned for 15 October 2021.

The studies addressed artworks and archives dealing with the activities of the first four museum institutions started as a result of the initiative of or in close collaboration with avant-garde artists: the network of Museums of Artistic Culture established in post-revolutionary Russia; the Société Anonyme Museum of Modern Art established in New York in the early 1920s by Katherine S. Dreier, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray; the Kabinett der Abstrakten designed by El Lissitzky in 1927 for Provinzialmuseum Hannover; and the International Collection of Modern Art of the “a.r.” group, which had become the cornerstone of the Muzeum Sztuki.

The Łódź collection is a phenomenon of international value. Its creation was possible thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of a small group of avant-garde artists and poets to start a collection that consisted exclusively of artworks donated by the most outstanding European artists of those times.

By bringing together the outcomes of research conducted for many years by the team of the Muzeum Sztuki and the multidisciplinary experience of e-flux in the production of artistic and cultural ventures presented in different media, a virtual platform will be created that will showcase the project discussing the above described phenomena. This online project will comprise the following main components:

  • rich visual content, including documentaries providing the historical background for the story;
  • critical essays and popularizing texts;
  • source materials (e.g., manifestos) that are translations of original documents into English and texts read in their original languages.

A project designed along these lines offers a huge advantage as it creates a synergistic story, in which diverse content and iconographic material complement each other. It is not just one more in a series of virtual exhibitions or websites hosting archives, but an autotelic experience working at the same time in correspondence with the publication and the exhibition prepared by the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź.

The use of online tools for this purpose will give the project global reach, the ability to reach out to a wide international audience, and, by the same token, will ensure effective dissemination and promotion of Polish cultural heritage.

Grant received from the Programme: PLN 100 000.00 (net)

Subsidized from funds of the Ministry of Culture, National Heritage and Sports under the “Inspiring Culture” Programme.

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