Very diverse and very exquisite. Graphics from the collection of Zachęta
On 12 December 2018 AG Polska visited the exhibition “Very diverse and very exquisite.
Graphics from the collection of Zachęta” (“Bardzo różnie i bardzo dobrze. Grafiki z kolekcji Zachęty”) in The Zachęta National Gallery of Art. Our group was warmly welcomed and guided by one of the curators – Małgorzata Bogdańska.
The Zachęta National Gallery of Art is one of the most important contemporary art galleries in Poland. The institution was created in 1989, but, in fact, it has a very long history. “Zachęta” in Polish means “encouragement” and its presence in the name of the institution derives from the name of the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts (Towarzystwo Zachęty do Sztuk Pięknych) which was founded in Warsaw in 1860. After the Second World War this Society was not reactivated until 1991. Its premises were taken over by the Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions (Centralne Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych) which was founded in 1949 by the Ministry for Art and Culture.
The Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions organized many exhibitions throughout the entire country. Many of them were focused on graphic arts. In 1962, for example, the Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions prepared 55 exhibitions, ten of which were exhibitions of graphics. The institution organized many exhibitions which were presented in local branches of the Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions, community centers and workplaces. In years 1964–1971 it organized 276 venues of 12 touring exhibitions. In the building of Zachęta, 32 out of 88 exhibitions in years 1956–1971 included graphic arts. In years 1957–1971 as many as 82 exhibitions of Polish graphic arts were organized in Europe, Asia, North and South America.
The number of Polish graphic arts exhibitions in the building of Zachęta and in all around the world shows the great significance and role of this medium at that time. The exhibition “Very diverse and very exquisite. Graphics from the collection of Zachęta” encompass the most important period determined by two exhibitions organized by the Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions — the 1st National Exhibition of Graphic Arts and Drawing in 1956 and the “Graphic Arts in the Polish People’s Republic” in 1971.
Exhibitions put on the show in years 1956–1971 as well as individual works received interesting reviews which often emphasized their quality. Many articles, reviews, archival materials including photographic documentation of exhibitions, posters and catalogs were eagerly and extensively used by curators while creating the “Very diverse and very exquisite”. The title itself was derived from the title of one of the reviews (4th National Exhibition of Graphic Arts). Similarly, the tight disposition of nearly 200 works by 80 artists on the walls was inspired by the way of showing graphic arts on exhibitions in the 1960s. The narrative was influenced by shows on the most popular subjects from that time such as: the building of the Polish People’s Republic, city, countryside, sea, sport, army, free time. However, one must bear in mind that artists sometimes used very universal titles for their works to suit the announced exhibition and keep their artistic freedom.
The descriptions of individual works on “Very diverse and very exquisite” include not only typical information on author, title, date and technique, but also on the exhibitions on which the work was shown. The curators succeeded in evoking a broader context of works also by presenting many archival materials (including films on tablets) on exhibition tables. The very useful feature of the tables were magnifying glasses which made it easier for visitors with vision problems to read old newspapers.
The high level of works of art and the wide variety of techniques shown on “Very diverse and very exquisite” may be described with the words of Kira Gałczyńska from the review of the 2nd National Exhibition of Graphic Arts and Drawing in 1959: “The richness of techniques, experimentation, the search for new forms of artistic expression on the one hand, and perfect use of spots, lines and color on the other — all this shows us how far the graphic arts has departed from its traditional narrow circle”.
Surprisingly, the “Very diverse and very exquisite” is the first exhibition in the modern history of Zachęta that shows workshop prints from its collection which consists of 2,100 works. AG Polska is very grateful for a wonderful talk and a discussion on the social and political context of an appreciation of graphic arts.
“Very diverse and very exquisite. Graphics from the collection of Zachęta” (“Bardzo różnie i bardzo dobrze. Grafiki z kolekcji Zachęty”) in the Zachęta National Gallery of Art, 9.11.2018 – 20.01.2019
curators: Małgorzata Bogdańska, Joanna Egit-Pużyńska, Maria Świerżewska (collection and inventory department)*
Last but not least, visit https://zacheta.art.pl/pl/kolekcja/katalog to find out more about the Zachęta’s collection.