The Neoplastic Room. Initial State
For the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Neoplastic Room, we have attempted to reconstruct the historical layout of the Modern Art Gallery as it might have looked like during its inauguration in 1948. The basis for this was an idea of presenting the collection of art described and published by Marian Minich in his text For a New Organization of Art Museums (1965). It was a concept very close to Władsyław Strzemiński’s Theory of Vision (1958), wherein the general aim was to study the form of artworks.
At the time of its construction, the Neoplastic Room was part of the Modern Art Gallery, designed by the Museum’s then director, Dr. Marian Minich. On the three floors of the Maurycy Poznański Palace, the collection was arranged “according to the development of artistic trends, and along the line of stylistic systematics,” from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The Neoplastic Room was located at the end of the art tour, on the top floor, in a room on a rectangular plan with a truncated corner.
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The new organization of the exhibition was underpinned by a critique of the then-popular historico-chronological exhibition method, which, according to Marian Minich, by mixing styles resulting from the viewing of art according to artists or themes, could lead to “complete exhibitional nonsense,” and which, especially in the case of exhibitions of recent art, did not allow for “objective documentation of the evolution of artistic thinking.” Instead, Minich proposed an alternative approach, namely to present art based on its formal properties, taking into account the “general evolutionary laws of art,” and organizing artworks as “optical exposition material from a systematic and stylistic angle.” After Swiss art historian, Heinrich Wölfflin, Minich claimed that the “evolution of art consists in the development of artistic vision, and art history is the study of the progressive development of the forms of artistic vision.”
Recalling the model that led to the birth of the famous Neoplastic Room raises the question of the meaning of this “formalism” in the context of presenting the museum’s collection today. We hope that it will bring about reflections on whether and to what extent such a concept, dating back, after all, to the 19th century and criticized many times, has become outdated or not. The question is also whether such an exhibition model – based on perceiving visual artwork in isolation from other arts, i.e. as objects with inalienable structural properties that can be almost objectively analysed; and which may determine their judgement, value, and even qualification as artwork proper – can be completely rejected today.
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