Public Art in Warsaw
The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw presents a subjective calendar of the history of art in the public space of Warsaw, allowing to track the inspirations and traditions. The list will be supplemented and expanded on a regular basis.
The first edition of the Metal Sculpture Biennale was organized. The event was held in Warsaw – Wola and encompassed about 60 spatial compositions, mainly along Kasprzaka Street and the Sowińskiego Park. The undertaking, organized under the auspices of the Marcin Kasprzak Radio Company (Zakłady Radiowe im. Marcina Kasprzaka), aimed at integrating the artistic and working class circles. Several sculptures, including the most popular “Giraffe” by Władysław Frycz, have survived to this day and are kept on Górczewska Street.
Szymon Urbański, painter, implemented the project entitled “Kobieta – Wisła” (Woman – Vistula) – painting under the Grota-Roweckiego bridge. Vistula was presented as a mother giving birth to a child, with two guards standing on both sides. The artist was retained by Citizen’ Militia - such art happenings in the urban expanse were illegal.
Jenna Holzer, American artist, created “Benches” at the CCA Ujazdowki Castle. Ten stone benches with engraved sentences from Holzer’s cycles: “Truisms” and “Survival”.
The foundation of Twożywo (Krzysztof Sidorek and Mariusz Libel)– unusually active and popular street-art. group. Inspired by constructivism, pop-art, futurism, advertisement, concrete poetry, members of the group presented their work in the public sphere, in order to get with their message to the widest possible circles of recipients. The group was disbanded in March 2011.
The AMS Outdoor Gallery was created. The project aimed at promoting artistic actions in the public sphere, using outdoor advertisement carriers owned by AMS: billboards and citylights. Each work was recorded on 400 carriers, in 8-19 Polish cities. The first one was: "Złe życia kończą się śmiercią" (Bad Lives End with Death) by Paweł Susid. The Gallery remained active until 2002.
Piotr Uklański made a mosaic from ceramic production scraps in front of the “Smyk” shopping centre. The work was composed of semi-vitreous porcelain plates, production scraps from plants in Ćmielów and Pruszków.
Paweł Althamer organized an action under the banner Bródno 2000. Lights on the block of flats at 13 Krasnobrodzka Street, where the artist and his family lived, formed a gigantic number 2000. Among the persons engaged in the undertaking were the artist’s neighbours, scouts and people from artistic circles. A fête was organized next to the block of flats, attended by more than three thousand people.
Joanna Rajkowska implemented the project entitled “Pozdrowienia z Alej Jerozolimskich” (Greetings from Jerusalem Avenue) – an artificial palm tree on the roundabout at the intersection of Aleje Jerozolimskie and Nowy Świat streets. The origin of the project dates back to the artist’ trip to Israel, in 2001, and her attempt to realize, and make others realize, what Aleje Jerozolimskie mean to Warsaw, what their history is and what emptiness has been created by the absence of Jewish communities. The palm tree has become one of the symbols of the Polish capital and provoked the first serious discussion in the media on the role of art in the Polish public sphere.
Karol Radziszewski made a mural on the block of flats at 4A Pułku Baszta Street in Warsaw – Mokotów. The characteristic contour painting was devoted to the Warsaw Uprising. The board reads: “Pułku Baszta Street. The name commemorates one of the divisions of the Home Army. The ember of »Baszta« was the group of scouts from Żoliborz”.
Thomas Hirschhorn, Swiss artist, built from cardboard and foil a temporary sculpture-gallery, named "Skulptur-Sortier-Station". It was located at the intersection of Egispka and Afrykańska streets in Warsaw-Praga – between a local market place, a bus stop and a florist’s.
Teresa Murak started the implementation of her project "Dzieła lęgną się w szczelinach rzeczywistości - 2004" (Artworks Hatch in the Cracks of Reality – 2004). She sowed the seeds of flax, sunflowers, mallow, buckwheat, cornflowers, poppy, cress and cereal in various parts of Warsaw. The project encompassed several works including, for example, the ones entitled: "Malwy idą do domu" (Mallows Go Home), "Lniany strumień" (Linen Stream), "Obiekt żyjący" (Living Object), "Ikona ziemi. Szałwia" (Sage. The Icon of Earth), "Nosicielami wody są ludzie" (People are the carriers of Water).
Three Pink Deer Figures were installed in Powiśle, created by students of the Faculty of Industrial Design in Warsaw - Luiza Marklowska and Hanna Kokczyńska. The deer figures were placed in such a way as to be easily seen from the roof of the university library and from the Świętokrzyski bridge. At night, the fawns glowed pink. The project evoked huge response from the media and the residents, and was shown, e.g. on billboards promoting the city. The undertaking was organized by the Bęc Zamiana Foundation which promotes contemporary design and young art outside of the expanse of galleries.
The “Ławka Pętelka” (Loop Bench) designed by Przemek Kaczkowski and Jacek Piotrowski was the first realization within the action carried out under the banner New Urban Design. It was installed in the Świętokrzyski Park, next to the Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, and has many a time undergone metamorphoses – it was “corrected” by services responsible for cleaning the park.
Within the scope of the vlep[v]net street.art.jam.v.2 Victoria festival, a mural was created by Mariusz Waras (acting as the m-city) at the rear of the Victoria hotel – one of the best known murals in the city. It was probably also the world’s biggest mural executed using the stencil technique - 240 m2. In 2011, the wall with the mural was demolished.
The photo taken by Piotr Uklański “Bez tytułu (Jan Paweł II)” (Untitled (John Paul II))” was presented as a billboard, in the place where the building of the Museum of Modern Art was to be built. The exposition coincided with the pope’s death. The work by Uklański immediately became the place of religious reflection and tribute to the deceased. Flowers were laid and candles were lighted under the photo.
Krzysztof Wodiczko realized a projection on the façade of the Zachęta National Gallery of Art (within the scope of the “Pomnikoterapia” (Monument Therapy) exhibition). On the two pilasters on both sides of the main entrance, the silhouettes of women were presented, who performed the function of caryatids. They talked about their problems, fears, violence, crime and alcoholism.
Paulina Ołowska allocated her money, obtained from the sales of her paintings during the exhibition in the Foksal Gallery Foundation, towards the renovation of the "Siatkarka" (Volleyball Player) neon light, by Jan Mucharski, at Constitution Square.
“Dotleniacz” (Oxygenator) by Joanna Rajkowska is created at Grzybowski Square. In the centre of the square, a pond was arranged, of the approximate area of 140 m2, planted with greenery, ornamental shrubs and yellow water lilies, equipped with special devices which ozoned the air and produced mist. In autumn 2007, the “Oxygenator” (which, in the meantime, became a very popular place of meetings of local residents), was dismantled for the winter. Despite favourable opinions of the residents and protests of specialists, the installation has never returned to Grzybowski Square.
At the 10th-Anniversary Stadium, a one-man reconstruction of the football match from 1982 between Poland and Belgium was presented by a Swiss artist, Massimo Furlana (commented by Tomasz Zimoch). It was the performance in the series entitled “Finisaż Stadionu X-lecia” (Finissage of the 10th-Anniversary Stadium).
A conference entitled “Sphere Opening. Localization of Public Sphere” took place in the Wiecha Passage, in a pavilion built by the Raumlabor team. The conference was devoted to architectural, social, political and cultural dimensions of the sphere considered to be public sphere.
Sharon Hayes, New York artist, implemented a cycle of performances in the public sphere of Warsaw, entitled: “W niedalekiej przyszłości – Warszawa, 2008” (In the Near Future – Warsaw, 2008), reconstructing, on her own, the strikes, demonstrations, protests and the original slogans.
In front of the block of flats in which Paweł Althamer lived, at 13 Krasnobrodzka Street, a sculpture under the name “Abram i Buruś” (Abram and Burus) was installed. The sculpture was created in 2007 on the basis of a drawing, which Althamer made after a hypnosis session. Hypnotized, the artist saw himself as a young Jewish boy, wandering with his dog around the charred remains of Warsaw.
In his project entitled “Synchronizacja” (Synchronization), Jakub Szczęsny, architect, installed several dozen colourful fluorescent lamps under the long bridge along the Łazienkowska Thoroughfare, separating the expanses of two parks: Agrykola and na Skarpie.
Reconstruction of the show by Henryk Stażewski, “Dziewięć promieni światła na niebie” (Nine Rays of Light in the Sky), in the northern courtyard of the Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, right next to the future construction site of the building of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. The painting in the sky, invented by Stażewski, was presented on May 9th 2970 during the art symposium: “Wrocław 70”.
In the first edition of the Warsaw under Construction festival, an installation of a Berlin artist, Daniela Brahm, entitled “Wielka kłótnia” (The Big Argument) was presented in the stand of Parade Square. Brahm mimicked the language of the omnipresent advertising, using it at the same time as a carrier of activist messages concerning disputes among the users of Parade Square. One of the slogans used by the artist was “Your City is the exhibition”.
The Zachęta National Gallery of Art implemented the project under the name “Inne miasto, inne życie” (Another City Another Life) – a cycle of new projects in the public sphere, among the authors of which were: Karol Radziszewski, Mona Vătămanu & Florin Tudor, Zbyněk Baladrán and Anna Niesterowicz.
In Stalowa Street, in the corner of Czynszowa Street, the sculpture named “Guma” (Rubber) was installed. The name of the sculpture was the nickname of a resident of Warsaw’s Praga and, at the same time, designated the material from which it was made. The initiators of the creation of the sculpture were the children of Praga, working with minders from the Praga Północ Group of Pedagogy and Social Animation and artist, Paweł Althamer. The sculpture, fixed on a spring, swayed back and forth imitating its prototype.
Daniel Knorr, Romanian conceptual artist “appropriated” the building of the “Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science. At the core of the performance entitled “Awake Asleep" was the coordination of the artist’s rhythm of life with the illumination of the Palace. When Knorr was going to sleep, he sent a signal from his phone and the lights on the façade of the Palace were switched off only to be switch on again when the artist woke up.
The “Światłotrysk" (Lightsurt) was created by Maurycy Gomulicki – a park installation made of neon light within the territory of the Kępa Potocka Park in Warsaw-Żoliborz.
On the initiative of Paweł Althamer and the mayor of Tarnówek district, the Bródno Sculpture Park was inaugurated. The project alluded to experiences connected with artistic projects outside of the expanse of galleries or museums, usually referring to social issues, and was created in cooperation with the residents. Currently (2011), in the park, one can admire artworks by: Paweł Althamer, Youssuf Dara, Olafur Eliasson, the Nowolipie Group, Susan Philipsz, Katarzyna Przezwańska, Monika Sosnowska and Rirkrit Tirivanija. For more information, visit www.artmuseum.pl and www.parkrzezby.pl
Nomadic The Knot was established in Warsaw - a mobile urban centre of art, culture, thought, sports, science and recreation. The Knot, led by an international team of curators (Markus Bader, Oliver Baurhenn, Kuba Szreder oraz Raluca Voinea) operated in Berlin, Warsaw and Bucharest. In Warsaw, it could be found in the Konopacki Palace (Praga Północ), at Kopa Cwila (Ursynów) and at the Mokotów Field.
The portal entitled Warsaw Public Sphere was established – documenting art in the public sphere of the capital: from the long-forgotten monuments to anonymous graffiti www.puszka.waw.pl
The wooden footbridge, built by the Germans in 1942 (connecting the small and the big ghetto) was replaced with the installation (...) by Anna Baumgart and Agnieszka Kurant. Silvery balloons were sailing above Chłodna Street, in the shape of the title ellipsis. In the same place one could find a graffiti by Adam X “Tu była kładka" (There was a Footbridge Here) (2007).
The 2nd Sculpture Biennale was held in Warsaw, referring to the 1st Metal Sculpture Biennale from 52 years before. Apart from the historical show: “Idea formy, forma idei” (The Idea of Form, the Form of Idea), Wola hosted, among others, the kinetic installation by Katarzyna Fudakowski.
The Neon Museum was founded, the mission of which was to “retain and protect the still existing neon lights in Warsaw”.
Grzegorz Drozd and Alicja Łukasiak implement the project under the banner “Universal” within the Dudziarska housing estate – built for families evicted from Śródmieście and Praga Południe. Side walls of three welfare blocks of flats were painted black (squares alluding to Malewicz), with a neoplasticistic composition on the other side. Activities of the artists met with opposition on the part of residents and were criticised by the media.
The UFO (Unexpected Fountain Occupation) was installed at Na Rozdrożu Square – a platform of art, architecture and relax, designed by a French team EXYZT. Throughout the summer, there are debates organized, as well as concerts, book promotions, film screenings and dancings.
For the second time, the Town Hall of the capital city organized a contest for the funding of initiatives realized outside of the walls of galleries. The Culture Office allocated PLN 1 million towards sixteen projects that would participate in the programme.
A social sculpture, Toguna, was created in the Bródno Sculpture Park – the effect of cooperation between Paweł Althamer and Youssuf Dara – sculptor from the Dogon tribe. Toguna, built in the likeness of African architectural units, is a meeting place of the residents of Bródno and a bus stop.
At the square at the junction of Karowa Street and Krakowskie Przedmieście, the pavilion called "Your Reality Machine" was built, designed by Olafur Eliasson – a renowned Icelandic artist. the facility was erected within the scope of the Polish Presidency in the European Council. The pavilion altered the perception of the surroundings, being, at the same time, an easy-to-remember landmark, sensuous and sculpting in its form. The project was distinguished in a closed contest organized by the National Audiovisual Institute and the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.
Inauguration of the project entitled “Nowe Miejsce (Trybuna)” (New Place (Stand)) initiated by the Department of Culture of the Capital City of Warsaw and the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. To enliven Parade Square, they inaugurated, in its central point - in the Honorary Stand, their new programme of artistic interventions in the expanse of the city. The first project selected in the closed contest was the sculpture by Ryan Gander “Really shiny things that don’t mean anything”.
In the main hall of the Warszawa Centralna railway station, architect Aleksandra Wasilkowska built a 10-meter high structure, using old information boards taken off the platforms during renovation works at the station. Inside the structure, there is a passenger lift for two people, in which it is possible to get almost under the very roof of the station. The artist calls the installation a “Time and Space Travel Machine”.
During the solo exhibition of Maurizio Cattelan, “Amen”, organized in the Centre of Modern Art, one of the most famous works of the artist, “He”, showing the silhouette of praying Hitler, was placed at the gate of a ruined tenement within the area of the former ghetto at 14 Próżna Street. The figure, kneeling with his back to the visitors, could only be seen through a barred window in the gate.
Rirkrit Tiravanija built a pavilion in front of the Ujazdowski Castle which, as the artist put it, was to serve as space for various interactions: reading poetry, children’s plays, cooking, music and film. The project was part of the Zielony Jazdów summer festival organized by the Centre of Modern Art, devoted to the issues of ecology, healthy lifestyles and balance between production and consumption.
A 26-meter high rainbow was built at Plac Zbawiciela, made of 16 thousand artificial flowers, strung on a steel structure. The installation by Julita Wójcik turned out to be the most controversial public project in the second decade of the twenty first century: within just two years, it was burnt four times by right-wing circles, who see it as a symbol of the LGBT movement. Nevertheless, each time, owing to joint efforts of the artists and local people taking part in the show, the rainbow returned to Plac Zbawiciela.
In the pass between two blocks of flats in Wola, Jakub Szczęsny made an artistic installation which was at the same time a functional flat. The width of the plot where the House is located is 152 cm in the widest point and 92 cm in the narrowest. The architect invited an Israeli writer, Etgar Keret, to settle in the house. The house is to serve as a place for creative actions of the world’s artists invited by Keret.
In the Bródno Sculpture Park, the Dutch artist Jens Haaning built a massive sculpture installation made of brick: a 15-meter long inscription reading BRÓDNO, overlooking the park. Apart from the sculpture, the artist also created a new logo of the housing complex; the pixels in the logotype resemble edges of the bricks that make up the inscription.
Architect Ewa Rudnicka, together with the ''Bęc Zmiana'' Foundation, built the City Water Sculpture in Mariensztat. She used the existent Oligocene spring pavilion – casing it in an openwork wooden structure – added a platform with a small pool, sandpit and seats, and planted greenery around the installation – thus creating a meeting point for the residents of the housing complex.
Yet another, tenth work appeared in the Bródno Sculpture Park. The author of the 3-meter high wooden and gold-plated “Guardian Angel” is Roman Stańczak. The Guardian Angel stands by the gates of Heaven – a garden designed by the initiator of the Sculpture Park, Paweł Althamer.
At the prefab house complex, the ''Bęc Zmiana'' Foundation organized the annual Synchronicity festival – a series of events devoted to architecture of the past which, in 2013, focused around multisensual designing. As part of the festival, Patryk Zakrocki realized a sound interference entitled: “Ściany to moje membrany” /”The walls are my membranes”/ and Rafał Dominik and Agata Wrońska made spatial interventions under the name “Żryj gruz, ssij kamienie” /”Gobble rubble, suck stones”/. There was also the “Uzdrowisko” /”Health resort”/ - exhibition of the photographs by Konrad Pustoła – and installation prepared by Marcin Chromicki and Justyna Wencel entitled “Architektura przemiany” /”The architecture of transformation”/. The festival was organized as part of the “Otwarty Jazdów” initiative, aimed at the protection of the complex.
Teresa Murak started her realization by the southern wall of the Ujazdowski Castle. The work is a gigantic sculpture in the process, made with the use of 350 tons of earth, extracted from under the bottom of Vistula by the same machines which work at the construction of the 2nd line of the underground. The artist declared: “Within the next few months, the deeply hidden substratum of the city will thus be uncovered and changed in an abstract monument of its modernization”.