Polska! Year celebrates Polish art with events around the UK

By Alice Burton | 01 September 2009
An installation of a replica World War II bunker

Robert Kusmirowski, Die Ornamente der Anatomie / The Ornaments of Anatomy, 2006. Installation view at Kunstverein Hamburg. © Robert Kusmirowski 2009, courtesy the artist and Johnen and Schöttle, Cologne/Berlin

This year, many institutions around the UK are paying tribute to all things Polish with the Polska! Year celebrations. Polska! Year was developed by Polish and British partners of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, a government organisation promoting Polish culture abroad, in order to strengthen relations between the countries.

Polish artists are typically diverse and adventurous so Culture24 has selected some of the exhibitions to see in the upcoming months.

We Would Like You To Know That We Are Not Them, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, Until September 13

As part of the Edinburgh Art Festival, up-and-coming and established artists from Lokal_30, a Warsaw based artist studio, will be showing a selection of films which symbolise the diversity of film-making in Poland today. The artists include Tomasz Kozak, Norman Leto, Jasmina Wojcik and Zuzanna Janin. For more information about Lokal_30, visit their website

Public art, Liverpool Canal, September 16 – 20

Maciej Kurak, one of the most promising young artists in Poland, has been commissioned to build a public art work alongside the canal in Liverpool, for the Art for Places project taking place during the Liverpool Biennial. The work will appear during the urbanism event on September 16 at an abandoned site along the Leeds and Liverpool canal.

The Liverpool Biennial is collaborating with local and regional agencies to commission artworks with residents on a four-mile stretch of the Liverpool and Leeds canal, from Seaforth, through Bootle, to where it currently terminates in Stanley Dock. For more information visit the biennial website.

A room with a circular table and chairs with a large painting behind it

The Bloomberg Commission: Goshka Macuga, The Nature of the Beast, 2009. © Patrick Lears

Traces of Memory: A Contemporary Look at the Jewish Past in Poland, London Jewish Cultural Centre, London, Until September 30

It would be wrong to celebrate Polish culture without looking at the tragic Jewish history of the country. The London Jewish Cultural Centre is exhibiting Traces of Memory, an acclaimed exhibition from the Galica Jewish Museum in Krakow.

The exhibition, which is on permanent display in the Galica, is a modern look at the Jewish past in Poland which is both informative and thought-provoking. It features relics, photographs and artifacts relating to all aspects of Jewish history - the culture as it was, the Holocaust, and the Jewish heroes of the present day.

The Bloomberg Commission: Nature of the Beast, Whitechapel Gallery, London, Until April 18 2010

Polish artist Goshka Macuga has created an installation based around Pablo Picasso's Guernica, an anti-war symbol which was originally exhibited in the Whitechapel Gallery in 1939 as an outcry against fascism.

A tapestry of Guernica now hangs outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York, where it is often used as a backdrop for important political speeches. In the exhibit, Macuga focuses on the covering of this tapestry in 2003 when Colin Powell made a speech about alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Other archival material looking at the links between art, propaganda and war accompanies the exhibition, and visitors are invited to hold their own discussions at the central table, with Guernica again as a backdrop.

Picture of a woman wearing a headscarf carrying an object which has been painted over with white and red paint

Paulina Oloswka, Head-Wig, detail from collage, 2009. Courtesy the artist

Head Wig (Portrait of an Exhibition), Camden Arts Centre, London, September 25 – November 29

This group exhibition, curated by Polish artist Paulina Olowska, features work by Jaroslaw Buac, Julian Ziolkowski, Cindy Sherman and Kathriana Wulff. They are all united by one theme, which Olowska refers to as ‘perceptual ambiguity’.

In Gallery 3 Olowska has assembled a set of paintings based on portraits throughout the centuries, paying tribute to those artists who have been overlooked in history. She based the exhibition on Jozef Mehoffer’s painting The Artist’s wife, which she believes is ambiguous on close inspection. The works will form ‘a unique constellation where clichés become surreal and the usual uncanny’.

Robert Kusmirowski: Bunker, Curve, Barbican Art Gallery, London, September 30 – January 2010

In his first UK solo exhibit, Polish artist Robert Kusmirowski will transform the Curve into a World War II replica bunker. This is not the first of Kusmirowski’s bold, ambitious war-based installations. Last year at the New Museum in New York, he constructed Unacabine, a replica of the remote cabin in Montana where Polish-American terrorist Theodore Kaczynski conceived a mail bombing campaign; and in 2006 he created Wagon, modelled after train carriages used to transport detainees to Auschwitz.

During the first two weeks of this exhibition, visitors will be able to view Kusmirowski putting the final touches to his installation before the finished exhibition is presented to the public on October 16.

Installation of a replica World War II bunker with a fence and sandbags

Robert Kusmirowski, The Collector's Massif, from the Collections of Robert Kusmirowski and the Sosenko Family, 2009, installation view at Bunkier Sztuki, Krakow 2009. Courtesy The Bunkier Sztuki Contemporary Art Gallery, Krakow. © Rafal Sosin

For more Polska! Year celebrations listings, visit the Polska! Year website.

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