Warsaw: Anna Bilińska’s Retrospective


Anna Bilińska was the first Polish female artist to gain international recognition. Her first solo retrospective at the National Museum in Warsaw takes place just now, in 2021, but it’s better late than never. Bilińska used oil paints, pastels and watercolours to create portraits, still lifes, genre scenes and landscapes in the style of European realism. The artist brilliantly mastered the basics of the painting technique, evidenced by her academic studies of models, which strike the viewer with their synthetic approach to the form and with their casual technique of painting. Of course, the artist also simultaneously continued the clear contour style, exemplified by her Male Nude Study (1885), Study for a Male Nude (ca. 1884-85) and Boy Nude (ca. 1884-85). Sketches for the historical and biblical compositions which Bilińska created in her youth have similar qualities but also display a bold expression of colour juxtaposition, as exemplified by Joseph Interprets Dreams (1883) and Inquisition (1884). Bilińska’s mature works consist predominantly of portraits and portrait studies of various ethnic types which were fashionable at that time. These pieces merge the refined simplicity of realism with an academic discipline of the painting technique, such as Head of a Serb (ca. 1884) or Old Man with a Book (ca. 1890s).Bilińska’s self-awareness and thoughts on the artist’s position in the world, which manifested itself in, among others, the representation of her own image in self-portraits, make her works so powerful. And still, the artist’s entire oeuvre and life story have yet to be thoroughly analysed and rediscovered…

The exhibition is on view until 10th of October 2021.

The National Museum in Warsaw is worth a visit in general! Here are some of my favourite artworks, especially from the 19th and 20th century galleries, from Józef Mehoffer’s enchanting Stange Garden to Jacek Malczewski’s prophetic visions.

Photos by Edward Kanarecki.

Berlin: Sprüth Magers

Sprüth Magers has expanded from its roots in Cologne, Germany to become an international gallery dedicated to exhibiting the very best in groundbreaking modern and contemporary art. With galleries located in Berlin Mitte, London’s Mayfair and the Miracle Mile in Los Angeles – as well as an office in Cologne and an outpost in Hong Kong – Sprüth Magers retains close ties with the studios and communities of the German and American artists who form the core of its roster. The gallery emerged amid an extraordinary outburst in contemporary art that took place in Cologne in the early 1980s. Its first iteration as Monika Sprüth Gallery opened in 1983 with an exhibition of paintings by Andreas Schulze and was soon followed by exhibitions of Rosemarie Trockel and Peter Fischli David Weiss. Over the next few years George Condo, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler and Cindy Sherman all showed at the gallery and have continued to do so for the last thirty years. In 2008 the gallery established its flagship space in a former dancehall in Berlin Mitte – not far from the city’s Museum Island. The gallery debuted with Thomas Scheibitz and George Condo. Known for its rigorously curatorial approach to its program and for a deep and enduring devotion to the artists it represents, the gallery has, over the past three decades, fostered close and cooperative relationships with museums and curators worldwide. Meanwhile it continues its tradition of commissioning new scholarship and creating innovative books and publications.

Right now showing in their Berlin gallery: Gilbert & George‘s “The Paradisical Pictures” and George Condo‘s “Linear Expression” – both open to visitors until the 25th of August.

Oranienburger Straße 18 / Berlin

Photos by Edward Kanarecki.

Hasior Gallery

If you ever decide to visit Zakopane, avoid the main Krupówki street (it’s a really bad looking commercial street…), but check out the “niche” places, like the Willa Koliba and Willa Oksza, or the amazing Władysław Hasior Gallery. Born in 1928 in Nowy Sącz, Władysław Hasior is one of the most remarkable modern, Polish artists. From 1959 he participated in every regional Zakopane artist ehxibitions and Art School Complex painters performances. In the 60s and 70s, Hasior showed his works on many national and foreign exhibitions. His works were transported from small workshop to the gallery by Jagiellońska street in 1984. The gallery was located inside former resting site of “Warszawianka” sanatorium, built by Wacław Nowakowski in 1935. Wooden resting site had two floors, glazed from south. Thanks to this transformation, the multilevel ehibitional interiors were created, often used as concert halls and living rooms or atelier of Hasior. In Władysław Hasior Gallery, various artworks found their place, like banners, assamblages, compositions and sculptures made from “trash” materials and junky, everyday items. Bearing metaphoric, ironic and contrary titles, they provoke reflection on the modern world and art, just as Poland’s history.

Jagiellońska 16 B / Zakopane

Photos by Edward Kanarecki.

Zakopane Style

The Jaszczórówka wooden church constructed by Stanisław Witkiewicz in Zakopane

The Tratra mountains in Poland aren’t just beautiful nature, but as well an important epicenter of Polish culture. The origins of the Zakopane Style go back to the late 19th century, when the Arts and Crafts Movement was in full bloom. It was created by Stanisław Witkiewicz, who settled in Zakopane in 1890. The Zakopane Style was the first Polish national style that went beyond the framework of theoretical postulates and could be carried out in practice, not only in Zakopane, but also in many other places in Poland, particularly in the Austrian and Russian partition zones. Stanisław Witkiewicz came across this idea in 1898. The inspiration for the Zakopane Style was therefore more the Ruthenian Style, which the artist could have encountered in 1868–1872 during his studies in St. Petersburg. In 1886, after his first trip to Giewont, he wrote: “…the highlander hut is a higher sort of construction in which the practical features are decorated in an expression of certain aesthetic needs. This is less raw material than a fairly developed style from which one might evolve a new and independent type of building.”

The first home in the Zakopane Style was Zygmunt Gnatowski’s Koliba Villa, which Witkiewicz built in 1892–1894. Witkiewicz considered the highlander carpenters and woodcarvers to be co-creators of the architecture he designed. The Koliba Villa was meant to settle all doubts as to the possibility of reconciling folk architecture with the requirements of the more complex and refined demands of comfort and beauty. According to Stanisław Witkiewicz’s precepts, the Podhale hut was to be the model for the Zakopane Style villa, which the Polish artist sought to make the Polish national style. Furnishing the hut with stylish furniture and other everyday items of his own design was his point of departure. His main task was to use the characteristic attributes of folk furnishings, “artistically employing” the constructions themselves. Ornament was shifted to background, though in many cases it was an important element. Podhale folk ornament, much like that of other regions, was mainly limited to geometrical and plant motifs. In the Zakopane Style this repertoire was expanded with motifs of the flora of the Tatra Mountains.

Willa Koliba

Willa Koliba

Willa Koliba & Willa Oksza

The first attempts to use Podhale ornament in artistic crafts involved carving ornament on wooden furniture – chairs, beds, and a screen. Based on designs by Magdalena Butowt-Andrzejkowiczówna and adapted by Franciszek Neužil, this furniture was produced by the Professional School for the Wood Industry in Zakopane for Countess Róża Krasińska in the 1885/1886 academic year. Beginning in 1887, this decorative movement was promoted by the school and was called the Zakopane Style. Stanisław Witkiewicz was critical of this furniture, mainly for its construction “without regard for the shapes of the original highlander pieces.” The failed attempts of the Wood Carving School inclined him to adopt the “highland style” himself. In the course of five years the first villa furnishings in the Zakopane Style, some to his designs, emerged in the Koliba, Oksza, Zofiówka, and Pod Jedlami villas. Attempts were made to harmonize the furnishings with the villa architecture, while “every detail” was to be “covered with highlander ornament or given highlander shape” to fill the interiors, while also creating designs “that had never been seen in highlander huts.”

The Zakopane style dominated architecture in the Podhale region for many years. Although the cutoff date for buildings designed in the Zakopane Style of Architecture is usually held to be 1914, many new pensions, villas and highlander homes are built according to the architectural model devised by Witkiewicz to the present day. The museum of the Zakopane Style of Architecture located in the Villa Koliba provides visitors with information on the Zakopane style.

Willa Oksza

Willa Oksza

Willa Oksza (Witkacy’s paintings), store with local craftsmanship & Bachleda Resort Hotel.

All photos by Edward Kanarecki.

Yayoi Kusama Retrospective at Gropius Bau

Berlin is alive and doing fine! And it blooms with great art events. Presented across almost 3000 m² of Gropius Bau‘s historic space, Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective offers an overview of the key periods in Kusama’s oeuvre, which spans more than 70 years, and feature a number of current works as well as a newly realised Infinity Mirror Room.  The retrospective focuses primarily on tracing the development of Kusama’s creative output from her early paintings and accumulative sculptures to her immersive environments, as well exploring her lesser-known artistic activity in Germany and Europe. Since the 1960s, the artist has been actively engaged in realising exhibition projects outside the former centre of her life in New York and showing her work in a European context. This has also brought to the fore Kusama’s role as a pioneer of personal branding, who early on in her practice intentionally staged and marketed her own artistic persona and multidisciplinary work. Within the exhibition framework, reconstructions allow viewers to experience the pioneering nature of her presentational forms and artistic subjects, making accessible Kusama’s early exhibition projects in Germany and Europe in the 1960s and central solo exhibitions in the USA and Asia from the 1950s to 1980s. It seems that everybody knows Yayoi’s art, but there’s just so much more to her work than the signature, XXL polka-dots.

Till the 15th of August 2021 / Gropius Bau / Niederkirchnerstraße 7

All photos by Edward Kanarecki.