No Museum – No Problem?

The project to build a new Museum of Modern Art

In order to understand Poland’s difficulties in establishing a new museum for modern art, it is necessary to explain a little what has happened until now.

The official place in Warsaw for exhibiting modern art is the Gallery of the Zacheta Museum, which celebrated its hundredth birthday last year. The Gallery of Zacheta has been a scene of demonstration and manifestation of political and social conflicts and of extremely controversial exhibitions and events, ever since it opened.

In the very beginning, during the opening, the first Polish president, Narutowicz, was murdered by the artist Niewiadomski. Last year, embarrassed by the exposition "Nazis" (Piotr Uklanski), Daniel Olbrychski (a famous polish actor) forced his way into the museum together with his TV-team and used a sword to destroy the photography showing him playing a nazi. The latest incident was this year when Witold Tomczak (a member of parliament) broke into the museum and tried to steal a part of the John-Paul II sculpture.

Anda Rottenberg, a very controversial person, was responsible for the museum from 1993 until last month. She was asked several times to quit her director’s position and she finally promised the minister of culture to go if he instead transferred her to the organization of the project to build the new museum for modern art. Which he did at first, but then changed his mind and with that, she lost both positions.

This is very regrettable because she has very good relations to other museums, artists and to the star architect Frank O. Gehry (Guggenheim Museum Bilbao) whom she had asked to cooperate. He could help the new museum not only to become an interesting building but also to get known internationally.

There is also the director of the Museum of Modern Art in Lodz who wants to move the project to his town because, in his opinion, there are many more artists and objects there worth exhibiting than in the capital; this is not incorrect – Lodz does indeed have a very good collection of modern art.

Unfortunately, the future of the new museum is currently uncertain and will surely change (together with the minister of culture) after the elections in September.

All these incidents and happenings show that the realisation of such a museum in Poland is not certain and is possibly more difficult than in western countries. On the other hand, the exposition "Nazis" was the subject of much dispute in Poland but passed almost unnoticed a few months earlier in the Berliner-Kunst-Werke. Maybe we do not yet have a building for the new museum, but we have a very vivid, attentive and emotional reception of Art and its intentions.

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