From Young Poland to the Present Day

14 October 2021

The National Museum in Krakow is launching two major exhibitions in the autumn: the permanent exhibition 20th + 21st. Polish Art Gallery at the Main Building (from 15 October), and the Stanisław Wyspiański Museum at the former Europeum (from 3 December). We will see familiar works presented in a fresh setting and art which has only found its way into Cracovian collections in recent years.

20th + 21st
In October, contemporary art takes over the entire second floor of the Main Building, including works from the Young Poland period, the interwar avantgarde, post-war artworks and the latest art created after the fall of communism and more recently in the 21st century. Artists who haven’t been featured in the permanent exhibition before include Monika Sosnowska, Mirosław Bałka, Jakub Ziółkowski, Olaf Brzeski, Jakub Ziółkowski, Piotr Uklański, Wilhelm Sasnal, Marcin Maciejowski and Janusz Kapusta. The museum’s original permanent gallery of contemporary art was founded here in the 1960s, and it underwent several transformations in the intervening years. The current concept has been developed by a team of eight curators representing different departments; as well as painting and sculpture, the exhibition includes examples of applied art for the first time. The Kraków printmaking school and Polish poster school have been given special place, and the exhibition also features experimental and animated films.

Wilhelm Sasnal, Crawl in Black, 2015

In recent years, works by the leading artist of the Young Poland movement have been shown in a range of locations throughout Kraków, most recently at the monumental exhibition at the Main Building of the National Museum in Krakow marking the 110th anniversary of his passing. This time, the new permanent exhibition is shown in the intimate rooms of the former city granary at the present-day Sikorskiego Square. We will see a range of iconic works including portraits, landscapes, sketches of stained-glass windows and polychromes, and stage set and costume designs, serving as a starting point for a more extensive conversation about Wyspiański and myriad aspects of his work such as modernity, nationalism, fantastical motifs and the influence of his vision on cinematography. The main part of the exhibition explores three themes: “Nature” and its relationship with religion (most notable in the designs for the Franciscan Church), “History” as seen in the stained-glass windows for the Wawel Cathedral, and “Antiquity” focusing on Wyspiański’s interest in ancient art and featuring the Apollo (System Copernicus) stained-glass window and other designs for the Medical Association. The museum also presents vast amounts of information, such as an online catalogue of Wyspiański’s artworks, digitalised literary works, articles, scripts and letters, and a research library. We will also see selected TV productions, recorded plays and screenings of his dramas.

Stanisław Wyspiański, Portrait of a Boy (Józio Feldman), 1905

From an intimate granary to the imposing Main Building, from the 1890s to the present day – a fascinating journey through the last century (and more) of Polish art. (Dorota Dziunikowska)

The text was published in the 3/2021 issue of the “Kraków Culture” quarterly.

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