“First step…” – Western Contemporary Art in Poland

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Phillip Taaffe, Artificial Paradise (Loculus), detail,  2008, oil on linen

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Miquel Barcelo, Des Meduses, detail, 2000, mixed media on canvas

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Eric Fischl, The Bed. The Chair. Touched, detail, 2001, oil on canvas

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Andreas Slominski, Untitled, 1993-94, bike/plastic bags

Well, this exhibition may serve perfectly those who know, how the bipolar disposition works.

One moment – one is proud and full of gratitude, tasting great art in an unexpected setting… only to go mad in the next second, when realizing some obvious organizational and curatorial flaws.

“First step… Towards a Collection of Western Contemporary Art” in the National Museum in Krakow (Cracow) is the show of ambition and potential with some recent works (mainly paintings, photos and prints) by  Nobuyoshi Araki, Miquel Barceló, Francesco Clemente, Eric Fischl, Mike Kelley, David LaChapelle, Sherrie Levine, Andreas Slominski, Philip Taaffe and Andy Warhol on a display. On the other hand it is, indeed, ‘the first step’ , which had to be done in order to learn how to walk.

Creators deserved credit for overcoming many practical and theoretical problems – it’s still not as easy as it should be – to borrow and even temporary import artworks to Poland, red tape and financial reasons are the main obstacles. And theoretically speaking – it’s all in the title – Polish art lovers had to leave for Paris, London and New York in order to see contemporary art in a compendium, in moments – to… see it at all… Some sort of an  ideological attitude, then lack of the proper connections and even specifically driven individuals made that ‘first step’  difficult to be accomplished.

But it’s been finally done. With the choice of artists, which, unfortunately, looks accidental – one cannot help thinking – that whatever was comparatively easy available – has been put on a list, and then – on a display. Sherrie Levine’s conceptual sculptures and Andy Warhol’s prints – all from early 80s look outdated and out-of -place next to Eric Fischl’s or Philip Taafee’s recent paintings from the last decade. Francesco Clemente is represented by a series of moderately interesting pastel drawings only, mentioned Warhol by his hardly revolutionary prints/collages taken from one private collection. On the overall, one faces an acute sense of hunger, of an insufficiently experienced encounter, aesthetically and historically speaking.

Then, those who paid for the privilege of photographing artworks get to realize, with all the surprised uneasiness, that it borders impossible to capture some of the works in their full glory. As for an example: P. Taaffe’s mesmerizing “Artificial Paradise” in two uncovers, each at least 4 x 4 m. has been put in a small passage, corridor-like space; to experience these artworks properly, not to mention to document them in this very setting, is a task for a superman. The same relates to the most of the paintings presented in Krakow – it appears like, quite unsurprisingly, the communist designers of the Main Building of the National Museum didn’t allow enough space to comfortably fit in something bigger than folk artifacts.

On the other hand – the biggest rooms has been taken to accommodate another international, simultaneously presented exhibition of American art and design. Who said that quantity over quality in art serves well or even to the acceptable level anyone – curators, visitors, artists and – art above all?

Well done for trying, not so well done for not trying even more. Looking impatiently forward to see further steps of Polish curators towards the Western Contemporary Art.

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All photos by K. Skonieczna. To see more pictures from this exhibition go here

About kasia

Born in Poland. Lives in Ireland, Cork. Visual artist. View all posts by kasia

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