Kunsthalle Erfurt: Contemporary Art from Cracow, Poland (2007)

Mariusz Salwinski
artdesigncafé - art | 30 October 2011
This introduction was previously published in the exhibition catalogue Otwarta pracownia— Offenes Atelier, Zeitgenössische Kunst aus Krakau ("Open studio: Contemporary Art in Cracow" in English) (16 September - 4 November 2007) at the Kunsthalle Erfurt, Germany.

Dear art lovers,

“Cracow School”, State Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow— byword for high-quality art and sound craftwork is top of the art college league in Poland.

All the members of the Artists’ Society known as “Otwarta pracownia” have gone this academic route, founding their own art association in 1995. Born in the 60’s of the 20th century, this generation of artists belongs to the main representatives of the contemporary art scene in Poland.

The excellent works being presented at the Kunsthalle Erfurt are making their artistic contribution in the framework of the partnership between Thuringia / Erfurt and Małopolska / Cracow, stressing the role of central Europe on a regional level. This strengthens the group of artists’ own position on the current art scene, stimulating the topical discussion on the reciprocal influence in the communication between the world cultures on the old continent. “Otwarta pracownia” interprets this exhibition as an international plea for the independent position of art and its liberation from the old economically and politically-based patterns of East-West, North-South.

The present catalogue represents the most comprehensive publication yet available in the German-speaking area on the artists from Cracow, providing a multi-faceted review of the following eight people’s works: Olgierd Chmielewski, Ignacy Czwartos, Jacek Dłużewski, Krzysztof Klimek, Stanisław Koba, Maria Luisa Pyrlik, Jadwiga Sawicka and Grzegorz Sztwiertnia.

The first presentation of the Cracow artists on such a scale in Erfurt gives both the German and international public the opportunity of taking a proper look at the current art trends from Poland, the event being rounded off by a German-Polish art seminar providing an appraisal of the works and the intentions behind them.

The works on display demonstrate just how freely they move among the various media of painting, photography, video and installation, with the artists not only conveying their message of “pure art” but also attempting to answer social questions. In this respect, the visitor may be amazed at the direct approach taken by some of the artists in the group to various, contemporary processes in society in their critical and artistic analysis.

It should be added at this point that the Artists’ Society, “Otwarta pracownia” claims to be a kind of producers’ association, especially on the non-commercial market. The members’ understanding of art does not merely relate to the local understanding of art but is highly conscious of widespread, deep-seated uncertainty and disorientation in the art world. The fact that art historians and theoreticians, philosophers and cultural sociologists number among their members makes it possible to exert extensive influence on Cracow’s publishers.

One of the principles of the organization “Otwarta pracownia” from 1995 declares that “business activities are not an end in themselves. The group’s aim must not be to hold a contest in prestige circles. The society’s structure shall remain sufficiently transparent for the artists’ profiles and works not to be obscured. “Otwarta pracownia” searches for art, looks into its potential and exhibits it. It distances itself from promotion strategies of a merchandizing kind and takes no part in such.”

The group is currently housed in Kazimierz, the sought after and meanwhile extremely expensive Jewish quarter of Cracow. As a result of the spate of restitution claims made on an international level in Poland in the wake of German reunification and the subsequent need for being constantly on the move, the group’s attitude toward having a permanent abode and financial security has developed artistically over time as “Work in Progress”.

Both on behalf of the Artists’ Society “Otwarta pracownia” and on a personal level, I should like to thank Professor Dr. Kai Uwe Schierz, Director of the Kunsthalle Erfurt and his team for the successful realization of this project.

Mariusz Salwiński
Exhibition curator