The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us

The sixties turned out to be a fruitful period in the development of display design for exhibitions in Poland. During the People's Republic of Poland (PRL) temporary architecture was created from cardboard and plywood for propaganda exhibitions and international trade fairs.

The temporary architecture became the practical ersatz of bolder, big-scale architectural concepts, which often remained unrealized in the architects' sketchbooks. These were the visionary ideas and ephemeral designs that transformed exhibition pavilions throughout Europe and USA.

The protagonist of the exhibition "The Space Between Us", Stanisław Zamecznik (1909-1971), one of Warsaw's most interesting architects of the 20th century, did not construct any lasting structures. His profession, an exhibition designer, placed him on the margins of architectural landscape. Zamecznik called his projects "spatial art." He appreciated the freedom which working with exhibitions offered within the complicated, bureaucratic process of managing an architectural practice in the PRL. Treated with greater tolerance by the authorities and architectural scene, it nonetheless constituted a niche wherein it was possible to implement the language of modern forms. Together with a group of architects and artists, Stanisław Zamecznik (often together with his cousin, the prominent graphic designer Wojciech Zamecznik) realised Warsaw's most important museum exhibitions: the rearrangement of the National Museum, the Wilanów Poster Museum, the Museum of Literature, the Historical Museum of Warsaw. He sought new ways of creating space by introducing elements such as curved surfaces and hanging structures; forming new alliances between art and architecture.

The main axis of "The Space Between Us" is constituted by reconstructions of parts of Zamecznik's major exhibition projects: the Warsaw edition of "The Family of Man", a travelling American exhibition which used photography as a propaganda tool; the Henryk Stażewski, an exhibition that blurred the boundaries of modernist painting; the exhibition of Henry Moore, where Zamecznik entered into dialogue with the British sculptor's works; and the Colour in Space, an installation realized together with Wojciech Fangor at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, a so-called “environment” proposing the idea of the viewer being affected by colour and shape within an abstract space.

We look into the projects constructed by Zamecznik and his colleagues from several important perspectives: the architecture of world fairs, the institutionalisation of artistic activity in the PRL, the Cold War debate on modern life reflected in interior decoration and design exhibitions. We confront them with the realisations of Polish, interdisciplinary exhibition teams and with Edward Steichen's propaganda exhibitions, Frederick Kiesler's mobile expositions for the Peggy Guggenheim gallery in New York, Oskar Hansen's democratic idea of "receptive form" or František Tröster's expositions, suspended between architecture and stage design.

The temporary architecture and spatial arrangements of Stanisław Zamecznik, which presently only exist as black and white photo documentation, allows us to discover an intriguing oeuvre, which advocated simultaneousness and the active role of the spectator as the work's co-creator. Avoiding institutional convention, it utilized the forms and shapes of modern interiors, industrial design and graphic art and photography. Creating exhibition spaces was not only the expression of an unhindered spatial imagination, but also an integral element of a contemporary visual culture, which inspired and affected many areas of everyday life.


Stanisław Zamecznik, Wojciech Zamecznik, Wojciech Fangor, František Tröster, Frederick Kiesler, Jerzy Sołtan, Zbigniew Ihnatowicz, Edward D. Stone, Zofia i Oskar Hansenowie, Le Corbusier, Marek Leykam, Stanisław Hempel, Dorothea Lange, Doris Ullmann, Ben Shahn, Lech Tomaszewski, Jan Kosiński, Jacek Damięcki, Duszan Poniż, Wacław Zalewski, Halina Skibniewska, Zygmunt Stępiński, Arseniusz Romanowicz, Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz, Henryk Stażewski, Krystian Burda

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