The Polish Chic and the middle class. Andrzej Bonarski’s exhibitions in the years 1986-1991
Łukasz Gorczyca


The 1980’s was a time in Polish contemporary art, and around it, when many things happened for the first time. One such unprecedented phenomenon was the series of exhibitions organized in Warsaw by Andrzej Bonarski[1].

A writer, journalist and businessman, Bonarski managed to organize presentations of the newest art using his own capital and personal connections. The scale of the endeavor, which was completely private and independent of political, institutional, social and intellectual terms, was an exceptional achievement in the context of the artistic life of the time. All in all, 22 exhibitions and showcases were organised within a period of 4 years. These included a number of extensive collective expositions with a very distinct curatorial touch. Bonarski became the first such important private promoter of the newest art in the entire post-war period. He was also an engaged collector who followed his own convictions and revealed a brave artistic intuition, if only to mention the last of his exhibitions – The Polish Chic at Warsaw’s Zachęta in 1991. This extensive institutional presentation was also a sign of just how important Bonarski was to the local art milieu of the second half of the 1980’s, the representatives of which he so eagerly promoted.

Starting from the position of an affluent outsider, Bonarski gained high repute in the artistic community. The fact is proven, for example, by his participation in the 3rd Biennial of New Art in Zielona Góra in 1989, but also when looking at the quality of his associates, among whom we find such renowned figures as Maryla Sitkowska, Ryszard Ziarkiewicz, or Jolanta Brach-Czaina. It was owing to Sitkowska, actually, that Bonarski’s exhibition achievements have been, if only initially, documented and analysed (on the occasion of the exhibition organized in 2002 at Warsaw’s Królikarnia entitled The Way It Was… Paintings From the Collection of Barbara and Andrzej Bonarski [To było tak... Obrazy z kolekcji Barbary i Andrzeja Bonarskich][2].

The specificity of Bonarski’s project – we can call it that since it was an endeavour carried out consciously and with much ambition – was very much interlinked with the reality of the late communist times in Poland: the period between martial law and the Round Table talks. It should be stressed that, paradoxically, the very atmosphere of those “destitute times”, of the emotional vacuum into which the society fell after the Solidarity carnival and the sudden shock caused by the imposition of martial law in December 1981, was one of the factors triggering not only the emergence of a completely new art but also new methods of its promotion which suited that specific situation. Bonarski’s personal experience seems also quite important in this context. A 50 year old man with a rich life experience and many connections, he represented not only a different generation from the New Expression artists, but was also a man of very diverse life and cultural qualifications.

Andrzej Bonarski was born in 1932 into a middle class Krakow family. He grew up in an atmosphere of high culture and patriotism, typical of his background. He recalled how his upbringing quite efficiently put him off the works of Sienkiewicz, the Kossaks, and the Polish colourists so revered in his family circles. After the war, he studied astronomy and mathematics at Warsaw University. However what was key to the choice of his further education and interests was his relationship with Arika Madeyska. She introduced him to the post-thaw artistic bohemian circles of Warsaw, the milieu of Klub and Galeria Krzywego Koła, the future founders of Galeria Foksal, but also to political dignitaries (such as Prime Minister Cyrankiewicz), who frequented her home.

After seeing the 1955 exhibition at the Arsenal, Bonarski thought the event was an artistic disappointment – he had already become quite knowledgeable about the goings on in European art. In 1956 he traveled to the West for the first time – he visited London. Upon his return, he began to write fiction, and also worked as a journalist and screenwriter. He was, for example, the co-author of a number of screenplays for films by Andrzej Kondratiuk (Hydrozagadka, Dziura w ziemi, Skorpion, panna i łucznik) and of Rewizja osobista by Kostenko and Leszczyński. In the early 1970’s he also collaborated with Jerzy Grotowski, whom he termed his „master”, though probably more in the pragmatic than the spiritual sense. He would later say: “Grotowski taught me capitalism”. His friendship with Grotowski would also later result in more book publications. In the second half of the 1970’s, Bonarski worked as a journalist with the monthly Polska. All this time he was also an active art collector. Initially, he collected Polish art from the inter-war period. Later he concentrated on the classical works of post-war painting. He sold off his entire collection in the 1980’s, when he shifted his focus completely to new art.

In 1981, he went to visit his architect friends in Paris. From there he traveled to New York where he was hit with the news of martial law in Poland. His stay in the Big Apple stretched to two years. There he worked, for example, as a night taxi driver, but he also traded on the stock exchange and became acquainted with the artistic circles of the Lower East Side. He met Magda Savon, the future founder of Postmasters gallery, and also artists and curators. His fascination with the bubbling artistic melting pot had a later impact on his decision to start his own exhibition practice in Poland.

It was his friendship with the influential financier, the Czech emigrant Jan Mládek, and his wife Meda, which turned out to be of key importance. These export collectors[3] introduced Bonarski, if only superficially, to the leading figures of the New York art scene, such as Julian Schnabel. Seeing no greater prospects for him in the States, Mládek convinced Bonarski that he should return to Poland – and so he did. Shortly after the lifting of martial law in 1983, he was back in the country with the money he had earned. He first tried his hand at business[4], but it was the young and just developing art scene that became his passion. He was particularly swept by the painterly stream of the New Expression. In it, he was finally able to find “interesting pictures”, a completely new energy and a fresh quality in Polish art, which finally managed to depart from the post-colourist traditions and find its own way, which was different from the avant garde and the neo-avant garde of the 1970’s.

The place Bonarski frequented at the time was Dziekanka in Warsaw – a gallery showing young graduates of the local art academy (including Gruppa). Its programme had a visible impact on the artistic choices later made by Bonarski, though only in the painterly part. The breakthrough which led him to the final decision to start his own exhibiting practice was Expression of the 80’s [Ekspresja lat 80.] by Ryszard Ziarkiewicz at the BWA in Sopot in 1986. The first exposition put together by Bonarski, entitled nomen omen The Painting Show [Pokaz obrazów], was a presentation of the works by Zbigniew Maciej Dowgiałło and Wojciech Tracewski on 20 December 1986 at the SARP pavilion at Foksal street in Warsaw.

The initiative was clearly the work of a person with well formed artistic opinions, fascinated with new painting, and convinced about the possibilities of introducing capitalist know-how into the poor infrastructure of the local art life, thus slowly constructing a private market and an influential upper class public. It could be a real alternative to the artistically disappointing exhibitions organized with the support of the church and in church premises on the one hand, and to the modest initiatives of independent galleries on the other.

Bonarski’s most important and, at the same time, best known project of the New Expression wave was his exhibition What’s Up [Co słychać], organised in the old Norblin Factory in Warsaw at the turn of November and December 1987[5]. The exhibition was, in effect, a response to the breakthrough presentation by Ziarkiewicz in Sopot. Though it was not perhaps overly original in terms of the artists selected (over half of those chosen had exhibited at Expression of the 80’s), its reception was definitely much broader. It also had a much stronger impact in terms of introducing the canon of the most important New Expression artists to the public awareness[6].

However hesitant, Bonarski had the courage to include in the exhibition a work which was radically beyond the dominating painterly or sculptural convention – the video by Zbigniew Libera entitled How to Train Little Girls [Jak tresuje się dziewczynki] (1987), which the curator had “hidden” under one of the plinths in the old factory hall. It was not until the wave of feminist revision of the newest art and the popularity of critical art that Libera’s work was fully discovered[7].

What’s Up probably would never have played the significant role that it did, if it had not been for the substantial support provided for Bednarski by those who were in close ties with the young art milieu, especially Maryla Sitkowska, who worked at the National Museum at the time, and the artist Joanna Stańko, a graduate of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts and a close collaborator of Dziekanka.

It was thanks to Maryla Sitkowska, who had accompanied Bonarski’s exhibitions fairly from the very beginning[8], that the exhibition in the Norblin factory concentrated on the art of the youngest generation. The concept was not in line with the initial intention of Bonarski, who had planned to make a multi-generational exhibition, inviting such artists as Jerzy Tchórzewski and Henryk Stażewski. Sitkowska was also instrumental in editing and publishing the catalogue to the exhibition, which actually did not appear until two years later, and which still remains a fundamental source of knowledge about the young Polish art of the 1980’s[9].

As part of her collaboration with Bonarski, Sitkowska also curated the exhibition A Pole, a German, a Russian [Polak, Niemiec, Rosjanin] (1989), and advised Bonarski on his project of The Polish Chic [Polski szyk] (1991). For the artists, the fact that the cosmopolitan collector and art sponsor was supported by a renowned and respected curator meant that the cooperation was a safe one and that this private initiative by somebody virtually unknown in the community was a credible venture.

Most of the exhibitions organized by Bonarski were solo presentations which lasted from one up to a few days. Despite their short durations, they were extensive and important showcases of different artists, if only to mention I am 32 and live in Warsaw by Jarosław Modzelewski, Tra-la-la by Szymon Urbański or Didactic Charts by Włodzimierz Pawlak.

Bonarski was definitely focused on New Expression painting, but – and what makes him different from a typical art dealer specializing in new art – his exhibitions also had the ambition to be problem-centred. His projects were much in line with the processes of important re-evaluations of post-war art, which were taking place in the late 1980’s, including the critical recapitulation of socialist realism, settling accounts with totalitarianism, reflecting on political art (A Pole, a German, a Russian 1989), and also discovered new grounds for critical exploration. Such was the exhibition In the Image and Likeness. The New Religious Expression [Na obraz i podobieństwo. Nowa ekspresja religijna] (1989), which was a brave attempt to stir up a discussion about the peculiar marriage of contemporary art and the Church (the latter being the dominant partner in this union) witnessed in Poland at the time[10].

A project by Bonarski which was truly unique was his joint initiative with Ziarkiewicz to present the new Russian painting. The effect of a study visit to Russia, an exhibition entitled The New Russians [Nowi Rosjanie] was held at the Palace of Culture and Science in July 1988[11]. Logistically and artistically, the project was the bravest of all of Bonarski’s initiatives, and one which he himself valued the most. It revealed his ambitions, which went beyond the local arena, and aspirations to try his hand at “grand art” on an international scale.

Though he had no curatorial experience or critical and artistic background in the strict sense of these words, Bonarski’s interests and convictions regarding the themes and forms of the exhibitions he organized were quite explicit. He participated in the selection of works and their arrangement, and more than once he presented rather brave and inspiring curatorial decisions.

The latter was particularly visible in the case of The Polish Chic, where Bonarski showed Władysław Hasior (at the time subject to social ostracism) in a very original manner (including his Cinema [Kino] – a slide archive), and at the same time, drawing inspiration from Maryla Sitkowska, exhibited works by KwieKulik , including the large format painting from 1977 which was a joint work produced with two other couples: the Wnuks and the Dwurniks. It was painted on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the October Revolution. Looking back, we can say that Bonarski thus anticipated the return of these artists to contemporary art history.

The exhibition, however, also marked the end of Bonarski’s public activities. Seeing his mission accomplished, he said: “The role of the intelligentsia in Poland has come to an end”[12].

His decision also stemmed from the ideological conviction, or perhaps a hope, that the fall of the Polish People’s Republic was not just the beginning of a new reality in terms of the political system and standards of action, but that it was also the end of a huge cultural tradition, something he saw as the “Polish chic”. It was the tradition from which he came but which he hoped would be overcome. In a number of texts he had published on the occasion of his exhibitions, Bonarski comes across as someone who is intellectually engaged in the discussion about the legacy of Polish Romanticism and Messianism[13]. “Artists should be engaged in nothing else but God’s world” - he wrote loftily, however ending on a more mundane note: “[…]so as not to live and create for a dime other than the one who someone, someone very concrete and individual, wants to spare on art”[14]. This last statement reveals the paradoxical essence of Bonarski’s mission – the fight for art’s absolute independence which, however, is feasible under one condition: the presence of an enlightened private sponsor.

The activity of Bonarski was one of the more ambitious and consistent exhibition projects of new art in the second part of the 1980’s. In the context of the boycott of official institutions, New Expression was shown at exhibitions and galleries managed and visited by only a limited group of people. It was only occasionally that broader and more public presentations took place. Nevertheless, Bonarski was able to create a new quality in the relations between the progressive art scene and the sphere of public life. The social space of his exhibitions was very specific. On the one hand, it was still the space of the disgraced and degenerated bureaucratic structures of authority and its institutions and, on the other, one which began a process of progressive economic and cultural liberalization (e.g. the authorities consented to such events as the rock festival in Jarocin, and they allowed private business to develop).

The exhibitions organized by Bonarski filled a void by providing an artistic offer which was completely independent from the official cultural policy. This offer stretched far beyond the boundaries of the art community ghetto and flattered the snobbish reactions of the social and cultural elites with the aura of a genuinely private initiative with all its necessary props: the western-style clad art dealer, the lingering aroma of posh perfume, and hostesses serving expensive spirits. On top of that, most of the exhibitions took place in spaces which normally had nothing to do with contemporary art, e.g. the exhibition pavilion of the Association of Polish Architects, or the post-industrial interiors of the Norblin factory. The choice of venues added to the feeling of the events being exterritorial, exceptional and phenomenal.

The aura created by Bonarski himself was very alluring to the socialite milieu of Warsaw, the local celebrities and diplomats residing here. His exhibitions were also frequented by famous film makers since Bonarski was also professionally active in that field. Another group that the sponsor was interested in, treating it as a potential audience of his exhibitions, were the young. It was with the young viewers in mind that Bonarski constructed his promotional actions. What’s Up was advertised in a television commercial (sic!). There were also advertising stickers in trams and on mailboxes. Though tickets were sold for large exhibitions organised in the Norblin Factory, young viewers had free admission.

The style of Bonarski, which was aimed to make New Expression fashionable, or at least attractive, to the snobbish audience, and which sought confrontation with the broader public, though it introduced a commercial context, evoked reservation among many of those who were close to the art scene.

Anda Rottenberg, for example, distanced herself from Bonarski’s activities. She referred to him only as “art dealer”, and she called the artists he presented “the protégés of Mr. Bonarski”. She saw the whole project as an attempt to “create a market of contemporary art in Poland”[15]. Others, however, who were not as emotionally linked with the artists promoted by Bonarski, were enthusiastic about his endeavours, seeing them as a “never-ending carnival on a bridge which is too long”[16]. The initial mistrust towards Bonarski, which was understandable considering the gloomy times of Communism and the fact that he was an outsider to the art community, was gradually overcome by respect or even, as was the case with Maryla Sitkowska, a natural reaction to help and support an initiative of private patronage, which was something very unique at the time.

The commercial potential of the new art was to Bonarski one of the impulses to pursue his exhibition efforts, though he had been aware from the very beginning that any prospects of financial benefits were more than remote. What he found more important was the need to create a practice of private art sponsorship in Poland. He wrote: “My activities are aimed at streaming private money to the most contemporary art by introducing this art to the homes of the richest members of the society. I am thus fulfilling the dream of art becoming a public good; […] the exchange between the money elites and the art elites is of tantamount importance, for both of these groups. I intend to create such an exchange”[17].

Bonarski thought that a private market was the only way to finance art and guarantee its healthy development. Such opinion stemmed from the obviously critical reception of the patronage of the communist state, but also from the popular conviction that the capital system was superior to the socialist one and, in particular, to socialist realism. We should remember that Bonarski’s convictions were also based on his own personal experience. He dreamt of a “market of the newest art, a market which would be independent, objectively treated by the critics, and with an auctioning mechanism”. His longing, which he expressed in 1989 and which was treated as exotic extravagance at the time, was soon to become the magic mantra for the entire artistic community.

However, over the four years of his art dealing career, Bonarski was able to sell not more than a few paintings[18]. The main buyer of the works of art presented at the exhibitions he organised was Bonarski himself (some of the paintings ended up in his collection free of charge – as compensation for the exhibition costs). The commercial aspect of the entire endeavor was, therefore, worse than mediocre, especially that Bonarski’s margin on the works sold was 15-20%[19].

The mission to create a genuine art market was thus never accomplished. Still, considering the state of the field at the time, his attempts may have seemed radical, but they were actually closer to regular gallery practices than what was exercised by the official galleries of contemporary art. In contrast to the state and private galleries, which mostly offered a more or less ambitious selection of works by current artists (with the random addition of artisan pieces and jewelry), Bonarski had no permanent exhibition space or infrastructure, but he still was able to propose a sound exhibition programme of the newest art, successfully promoting his selection of young artists. The exhibitions were accompanied by critical texts, and the group presentations were always organized in line with a specific curatorial vision. In practice, such activity was not only close to the standards of an ambitious private gallery of contemporary art, but actually followed the norms of public galleries, which were unable to carry out such a mission, given the specific reality of the time.

“Independence” - the fetish word was on everybody’s tongues in the 1980’s. It was exploited by both the politically engaged opposition, as well as the young artists and musicians – indeed it was a cute euphemism for all pro-freedom, pro-democratic and emancipatory attitudes, as well as an artistic alternative for the cultural mainstream. Bonarski’s exhibitions became a part of this broad social move of “independence” at yet another, situational level. His projects were not only artistically “independent” or “independent” from the standards which were binding in the art milieu, but were, most importantly, free from the official procedures of organizing either cultural events or business activities. As an “independent” art promoter, Bonarski knew how to skillfully and effectively find his way in the gray area. From the legal vantage point all his endeavours were illegal. The exhibition catalogues were printed afterhours by printers he paid under the table. The texts for the catalogues were approved – if ever there was time to read them – by censorship officials who had been made more agreeable by the delicate persuasion skills of the organizer himself.

At the same time, many of Bonarski’s ideas would never have been realized if it had not been for the backing of supporters at the highest tiers of authority. Hence the seemingly paradoxical thank you in the catalogue to What’s Up addressed to, among others, Mieczysław Rakowski, a member of the Central Committee of the Polish United People’s Party and prime minister in the years 1988 – 1989. Despite the serious doubts of the book’s editor, Maryla Sitkowska, the note was included and seen by some artists as seriously offensive and compromising to Bonarski. But it was actually thanks to Rakowski that the exhibition The New Russians could take place in the summer of 1988 in the interiors of the Palace of Culture and Science[20]. Similarly paradoxical was the support for the catalogue to “What’s Up” received from the Ministry of Culture and Art[21].

In light of the gradual dissolution of the political and economic systems in the final phase of communist Poland, it was private contacts or uncomplicated arguments of a financial nature that were more important than dead formal procedures. The phenomenon of Bonarski’s organizational success derived from his awareness of the system’s dysfunctionality and a pragmatic attitude to execute his projects by the simplest means available, without minding the official procedures, but also without any excessive concern about the opposition-imposed canon of political correctness. The regime structures were also taken advantage of – including the public media, in particular the television boycotted by the artistic community. Representatives of these structures were invited to all the openings[22].

What made Bonarski’s artistic initiatives different at the time was the scale and ambition of attracting a wider public instead of just a closed circle of specialists. His projects were designed to interact with the sphere of public life more broadly and not just the art world. In this sense, they were unprecedented and changed the mental climate of the New Expression art. The process of changes launched by Bonarski was not revived until the late 1990’s, when the political and economic circumstances were very different. “He is not aware that certain things simply cannot be done, so he does them” - as Sitkowska very aptly summed up Bonarski, referring to the famous quote by Stefan Bratkowski[23].

The tangible fruit of Bonarski’s exhibition endeavours is the collection of Polish art of the 1980’s that he created (placed on deposit at the Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw). It is one of the most representative sets of New Expression painting which, when compared to other collections which are mostly held in museums, is rather diverse and complete in terms of the list of artists (over twenty) and important pieces (if only to mention the iconic paintings such as Trudności w poruszaniu się by Jarosław Modzelewski, Łamanie szklanych rurek by Włodzimierz Pawlak or Jimi Hendrix wykurwia z wiosłem na deski w Bytomiu by Marek Sobczyk).

A collection of posters and printed materials produced on the occasion of the exhibitions organized by Bonarski should also be noted. Most of these were created by Piotr Młodożeniec, who was able to uniquely adapt the painterly language of New Expression to the practice of applied graphic art, wedding it with early attempts at computer graphics, revealing a great feel for the specific “immediate” character of posters, which was manifested by the use of silk-screen printing on “poor” wrapping paper.

Finally, one other thing which needs to be mentioned is the publishing activity of Wydawnictwo Andrzej Bonarski [Andrzej Bonarski Publishing House], responsible for the post factum publication of four catalogues to four key exhibitions of the second half of the 1980’s – Bonarski’s own exhibition What’s Up, as well as expositions curated by Ryszard Ziarkiewicz: “The Expression of the 80’s” (1986), “Radical Realism, Concrete Abstraction” (1987), and “Paradise Lost” (1990). These publications serve as a symbolic closure of the promotional ambitions of Bonarski and his attachment to a given artistic formation, which was best, though somewhat tersely, recapped by Bonarski himself: “Polish art began in 1986”.

Apart from its artistic significance and the unfulfilled commercial dimension, the ambition of the project undertaken by Andrzej Bonarski was more of a social and cultural rather than a political nature – at least in the understanding of the political sense of the time. The rhetorical distinction between “we” and “they”, between the authority and the society, was defined by Bonarski somewhat uniquely, and was very explicitly declared on the occasion of his farewell exhibition The Polish Chic. We read: “Thus far art was mainly for the intelligentsia; but naturally art is not over now that the intelligentsia is gone. It will be consumed by the developing middle classes. No changes in Poland will be possible without a middle class. However, its taste, for the time being, is apparently determined by their love for satellite antennas and video recorders”[24].

Łukasz Gorczyca, born in 1972, co-founder (with Michał Kaczyński) of the Raster art magazine (1995-2003), then the Raster Gallery (since 2001). Active as an art critic and curator (among others Relax at the Arsenal Gallery in Bialystok, 2001; De Ma Fenêtre at Ecole Nationale Superiere des Beaux Arts in Paris, 2004), worked for the cultural section of the Polish public television TVP (2000-2002). Published literary works “The Best Polish Short Storie” [Najlepsze polskie opowiadania] (1999) and “Half Empty” [W połowie puste](2010, with Łukasz Ronduda).

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1. Bonarski organised only three exhibitions outside of Warsaw: in the studio of Władysław Hasior in Zakopane (Agnieszka Niziurska-Sobczyk, Czy można kochać nie mając serca?, 1987), at the 3rd Biennial of New Art in Zielona Góra, and at the Zderzak gallery in Krakow (exhibition of A. Leiderman and Konstantin E. Latyshev A Higher Pilotage or the Great Rest [Wyższy Pilotaż czyli Wielkie Odpoczywanie], moved from the Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, 1989).

2. The catalogue to the exhibition contains a complete list of all exhibitions organised by Bonarski, with their bibliography and documentation. To było tak... Obrazy z kolekcji Barbary i Andrzeja Bonarskich – depozyt w Muzeum ASP w Warszawie, exhibition catalogue, ed. M. Sitkowska, Królikarnia, Muzeum Rzeźby im. Xawerego Dunikowskiego, Deaprtmetn of the National Museum in Warsaw, 22 March –20 September 2002, Warsaw 2002. The present paper was drafted on the basis of interviews which the author conducted with Andrzej Bonarski (including an interview conducted by Paulina Wrocławska), Maryla Sitkowska and Marek Sobczyk as well as the archival records of Andrzej Bonarski maintained by Sitkowska.

3. After the death of Jan Mládek, his wife Meda gave the collection to the city of Prague, and her foundation was turned into the Kampa Museum on Mala Strana. The Mládek collection contained eminent works by František Kupka and Otto Gutfreund, but also contemporary Polish artists, including Magdalena Abakanowicz and Edward Dwurnik.

4. After his return to Poland, Bonarski set up a timber company , and after 1989 he went into the publishing business (e.g. he opened a yellow pages company).After the death of Jan Mládek, his wife Meda gave the collection to the city of Prague, and her foundation was turned into the Kampa Museum on Mala Strana. The Mládek collection contained eminent works by František Kupka and Otto Gutfreund, but also contemporary Polish artists, including Magdalena Abakanowicz and Edward Dwurnik.

5. The following artists participated in the What’s Up exhibition in the Norblin Factory (14 November –6 December 1987): Mirosław Bałka, Jerzy Caryk, Anna Ciba, Zbigniew Maciej Dowgiałło, Mirosław Filonik, Anna Gruszczyńska, Ryszard Grzyb, Bożena Grzyb-Jarodzka, Paweł Jarodzki, Grzegorz Klaman, Jerzy Kopeć, Paweł Kowalewski, Mariusz Kruk, Piotr Kurka, Zbigniew Libera, Katarzyna Markiewicz, Gabriela Miłowska-Moląg, Piotr Młodożeniec, Jarosław Modzelewski, Michał Moląg, Agnieszka Niziurska-Sobczyk, Włodzimierz Pawlak, Tadeusz Rolke, Tomasz Sikorski, Mikołaj Smoczyński, Marek Sobczyk, Tadeusz Świniarski, Leon Tarasewicz, Wojciech Tracewski, Jerzy Truszkowski, Szymon Władysław Urbański, Wiesław Waszkiewicz, Sławomir Witkowski, Ryszard Woźniak.

6. The popularity of the exhibition was also boosted by the fact that a week after the closing of What’s Up another presentation by Ryszard Ziarkiewicz and Janusz Zagrodzki was opened at the National Museum in Warsaw - Radical Realism, Concrete Abstraction [Realizm radykalny, abstrakcja konkretna].

7. A similar step into the future which also anticipated the critical and artistic discussions of the 1990’s was the text by Jolanta Brach-Czaina, “The Metaphysics of Meat”[Metafizyka mięsa] (pp 64–73) which was included in the catalogue to What’s Up. Her book, published in 1992, “The Cracks of Existence” [Szczeliny istnienia], which elaborated on the idea of the metaphysics of the body, became one of the most important reference points for the so called body art of the 1990’s.

8. The first exhibition by Bonarski seen by Sitkowska was a joint presentation of Marek Sobczyk and Ryszard Woźniak Each of Your Orphans, Michealangelo [Każda z twoich sierot Michale Aniele] in the SARP pavilion in April 1987– the third exhibition organised by Bonarski.

9. “Co słychać. Sztuka najnowsza”, ed. M. Sitkowska, Warsaw 1989.

10. In Polski szyk Andrzej Bonarski wrote: “When I saw the exhibition The Way and the Truth [Droga i Prawda] at the Church of the Holy Cross in Wroclaw, I felt as if it had been put together by the communist party’s department of culture upon their sudden conversion to the full version of Polish Catholicism”.– A. Bonarski, “Polski szyk” (text to the exhibition catalogue “The Polish Chic”), in: “To było tak...”, op. cit., p. 81.

11. Interestingly, as was the case with What’s Up which was followed a year later by the Arsenal 88 presentation, a year after the Russian exhibition organized by Bonarski, a project called Red & White took place which had been put together by the same curators but with the support of the authorities.

12. A. Bonarski, “Polski szyk”, op. cit., p. 82.

13. Also see: A. Bonarski, “Pan Bóg i artysta”, in: “Co słychać”, op. cit., pp. 74–78.

14. Ibidem, p. 78.

15. A, Rottenberg, “Na podobieństwo”, Tumult. Niezależne pismo społeczno-kulturalne no 5/1989, p. 65; quote from: idem, “Przeciąg. Teksty o sztuce polskiej lat 80.”, Warsaw (2009), pp. 255–256.

16. R. Mleczko, “To było tak...”, in: “To było tak...”, op. cit., p. 6.

17. A. Bonarski, b.t. “Inrtoduction”, “Od ponad czterdziestu lat...”, in: “Co słychać...”, op. cit., pp. 14–15.

18. Bonarski recalls that one was purchased by the famous singer, Maryla Rodowicz, another one – by the film director Jerzy Skolimowski, and another one still by a collector from the US. Since the art dealer functioned informally, there are no records of the sales and procurements.

19. The margin imposed by Bonarski is very different from the current galery standard which is 50% of the price of the work of art.

20. Bonarski himself claimed that the transportation of paintings across the Polish-Soviet border was possible thanks to the intervention of Rakowski with one of the authors of the perestroika, Alexander Yakovlev.

21. The subsidy, organised by Tadeusz Zielniewicz, the general conservator of historical architecture at the Ministry of Culture, was received by Bonarski, and thus was legalized via the Association of Art Historians.

22. There was even a press conference held before the opening of What’s Up

23. M. Sitkowska, b.t., “Introduction” in: “To było tak...”, op. cit., p. 12.

24. A. Bonarski, “Polski szyk”, op. cit., p. 82.

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