Hype? No way! Polish Art in Germany
It might have taken a little time for the rest of the world to notice it, but Poland actually has quite a lively and unconventional art scene. The message has also been received loud and clear in Germany. What better proof of this than the current exhibition being held at the Museum Morsbroich called “Twisted Entities”.
There is something quite strange about the fact that the success of some Polish artists on the international exhibition scene has been written off as fast-lane “hype”. Comparisons between the art scene in Poland at the moment and the phenomenon of the Young British Artists (YBA) in the 1990s are already rife in the press - the aim being to emphasise the significance of the “Young Poles”. This is actually unreflected quick-fire thinking - the YBA after all has in the meantime turned into a movement that is no longer to be taken seriously and is above all now looked on more or less as a clumsy attempt at package marketing. The contemporary art of Poland however has nothing in common with this at all.
Hey neighbour, what’s new?
So what is with all this international hype? From the German point of view the situation seems quite different. There were some events like the celebration of the Polish-North-Rhine Westphalia Year 2011/12, the exhibition entitled Poland - Germany. 1,000 Years of Art and History held at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin and the fact that Artur Zmijewski was the curator of the Berlin Biennale, to which he invited many Polish artists - all these events might well give the impression of a strong focus on Poland. To speak of a Poland hype however seems to be somewhat presumptuous.
“Poland is not an exotic country that is yet to be discovered in Germany,” says Joanna Warsza, who was born in Warsaw but now lives and works in Berlin as a curator and who was jointly responsible with Zmijewski for the last Berlin Biennale. “From the Berlin perspective Poland is just next door. There has always been a long tradition of close ties, not only between the cities of Warsaw and Berlin, but also between the two countries.”
Not a Polish national show
Other famous artists however are missing - painter Wilhelm Sasnal, for example, and Pavel Althammer. That is however OK – not because people do not want to see their works, but because the exhibition wants to avoid the questionable claim of being a national show of the art of Poland.
Borders made of paper
Instead Twisted Entities has brought together artists whose works are characterised by references to realistic, everyday themes and specific moments when things get “twisted” - references that in part have been influenced by the aesthetics of the theatre. Using everyday materials, existing control systems are analysed, deconstructed and turned upside down.
Stefanie Kreuzer, the exhibition’s curator, says that at first she noticed the artists’ works at various exhibitions and fairs due to their special narrative approach. It was not until later that she realised that most of the artists were Polish - and that prompted her to do some research into the matter. The Polish Institute in Düsseldorf organised a trip to Poland for her where she was able to compile a clever selection of artists, some well known - some not, whose works are on show at the Museum Morsbroich. The exhibition is a carefully curated, themed showcase of art that fits in perfectly with the ambiance of this former Baroque palace.
Not a passing fad
Instead of all this talk of hype, the contrary is actually the case - it took a long time for the voices of Polish artists to be heard at all in the West. This was at least the way it was put by the art historian and art critic, Noemi Smolik, in her article for the Morsbroich exhibition catalogue entitled in German Wer spricht da? Künstlerinnen und Künstler aus Polen (Who is that talking? Artists from Poland).
In her article Smolik gives two reasons for the time lag: firstly the dominance of a global perspective influenced by North America and Western Europe and, secondly, the dictum of abstraction that has prevailed for so long in the realm of the visual arts - a dictum to which iconic Polish art traditions, which have been more influenced by the theatre, run contrary to. The fact that these things are now beginning to gradually change fortunately has nothing at all to do with a passing fad.
works as an art critic and a free-lance exhibition curator and, among other things, for the Frankfurt Kunstverein, in Hamburg.
Translation: Chris Cave
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
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