Art Comes Before Gold
The first show of acquisitions to the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

Art Comes Before Gold

The Museum of Modern art in Warsaw is presenting its collection for the first time, with the goal to restore the artists and artistic phenomena of East-Central Europe to their proper place in the history of art. Special attention is given to Polish creators of art.

The established time reference is the year 1989. It is then that the process of rewriting Western history started in order to include the artistic legacy of our region. However, artworks from preceding periods will also find room in the collection. We are especially interested in artists of paramount importance to postwar art, such as Alina Szapocznikow, whose works are a reference point for contemporary creators. The Museum collects entire archives of particular artists or artistic phenomena and therefore, offers a deep insight into artistic activity.

The title of the exhibition showing our first purchases, benevolences and deposits to the Museum’s collection, "Art Comes Before Gold", is an allusion to the medieval motto. There words are a testimony to the great transformation in the Western culture – it is not the gold and jewels in a work of art which deserve to be admired, but the effort of the artist. It is the artist’s skill that allows their creation to transmit the knowledge and emotions which bring us together, constituting our shared values.
The exhibition contains the works of prominent Polish artists of various generations, as well as those of a Czech artist Katarina Šeda (participant in the prestigious Documenta in Kassel) and two invaluable archive collections.

Owing to a targeted grant of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the Museum was able to obtain three sculptures and a set of eleven drawings by Alina Szapocznikow. Her legend and the legacy of her work are still waiting to be propagated both in Poland and abroad. Szapocznikow’s sculptures will be displayed next to an exhibit which was a gift to the Museum from Magdalena Abakanowicz, a key personality to postwar Polish art, as well as the works of Mirosław Bałka and Paweł Althamer, the two leading sculptors of the middle generation. Apart from Althamer, there are also artists from the famous Kowalnia – the workshop of professor Grzegorz Kowalski at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw – Artur Żmijewski and Katarzyna Kozyra. These are the artists whose work is a testimony to the Polish transformation.

One of the very important benevolences to the Museum is the photographic archive of Eustachy Kossakowski. The collection has over 150 thousand negatives which documents the activity of Polish new avant-garde of the 1960s, as well as the everyday reality of those times.

The exhibition also touches upon motifs of identity, nationality and politics. A painting by Jarosław Modzelewski and Marek Sobczyk entitled Das Gebet des deutschen Pfarrers oder Bleistiftprobe is an ironic reference to the stereotypes present in Polish-German relations. In turn, Wilhelm Sasnal’s painting Broniewski and Piotr Uklaiński’s Untitled (John Paul II) deal with the topic of portrait and icon, which leave room for multiple interpretations in contemporary Polish culture.

The Museum also shows interest in other disciplines, especially in architecture and design. One of the presented exhibits is the renovated glow sign of the Warsaw cinema Skarpa which has been pulled down. This object is not only an important example of 1960s design, but also a sign of the dynamic changes which Warsaw is undergoing.


Magdalena Abakanowicz, Paweł Althamer, Mirosław Bałka, Katarzyna Kozyra, Jarosław Modzelewski, Katarina Šeda, Wilhelm Sasnal, Marek Sobczyk, Monika Sosnowska, Alina Szapocznikow, Piotr Uklański, Artur Żmijewski and the archives of Eustachy Kossakowski and Kowalnia.

The exhibition is under the honorary patronage of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Bogdan Zdrojewski.

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