Last week I sat down with MARIA RUBERSZ, the chairman of the ING POLISH ART FOUNDATION management board, to talk about the Polish contemporary art scene, its artists, trends, and what they look for in artists that they, as a foundation, work with…
Tell me a little about the foundation, its background, and the current projects that you are involved in.
Rubersz: The foundation was set up by companies which operate within the ING Group in Poland. It was established in 2000 with the aim of supporting Polish contemporary art, especially young Polish artists. We provide our support mainly through creating a collection of works. Currently, we have 135 artworks, mostly paintings and photography. However, we have recently begun a couple of new projects. Last year, in cooperation with the Museum of Art in Lodz, we co-organized a competition. This year we are going to work with the winner of this competition, Katarzyna Balug, a Polish artist who lives in the United States. The aim of the project is to help young artists under 30 to pursue their projects in collaboration with an institution. Another project that we were recently involved in is the publication of a book with the artist Honza Zamojski. This book is basically about his take on each piece in our collections, interpreted as a portrait and designed as a picture on an iPhone.
Where do you exhibit the artwork in your collection?
Rubersz: In addition to supporting new artists, a main idea of the collection is to provide ING’s employees with daily access to art. This is why we keep all of the art that we purchase on the walls throughout the building. The art is very much incorporated into ING building’s structure, so that it forms a integral part of the office environment here.
The Polish ING Foundation has been around since 2000. How has the Polish contemporary art scene changed over the past 13 years?
Rubersz: The art scene has changed radically. Firstly private and commercial galleries have surfaced throughout Poland. Also the interest in art in Poland has grown in general, as art has become increasingly covered by the media. In addition, the possibilities to present or even practice art have changed. Contemporary art in Poland is increasingly present in public spaces, like the symbolic palm tree by Joanna Rajkowska in Warsaw’s city center, or the rainbow by Julita Wojcik on Zbawiciel Square. The project with the Museum of Art in Lodz will also be exhibited in a public space. This is a big deal as not so long ago this wasn’t possible.
What would you say are the dominant trends in the Polish contemporary art scene?
Rubersz: First of all, many Polish artists travel. 20 years ago something so obvious was almost impossible or at least very difficult. As I mentioned earlier, the project winner from this year lives in the United States. The same goes for Anna Ostoya, whose work we bought two years ago. She also left Poland to live in the US. Also in terms of trends, I think a really general, but a very important trend is that interest in contemporary art has certainly grown among Poles. Art is more and more part of the social dialogue.
What influences ING’s choice of works to purchase?
Rubersz: Sometimes it is something as simple as the aesthetic aspect of the art piece. For example, the color. Like the photographic works of Maurycy Gomulicki. Gomulicki is a painter, but even though he hasn’t painted anything in a while, it is very obvious in his photography that he is very color-conscious.
Sometimes we choose works on the basis of their theme. For example, works which allude to financial institutions. Like the works of Anna Ostoya which are about the crisis.
When we choose to buy an artwork by a young artist, we have to be sure that this artist will not stop creating when they get “bored”. We have to have the certainty that it is not going to be a “career” that only lasts three years. We aim to “fish” out those artists who not only have big potential but also a strong ambition to create, to develop, and to grow.
Are there any trends that Polish contemporary artists seem to follow currently?
Rubersz: Yes, lately many Polish artists make collages. Often collages based on the theme of modernism. The artists are also generally braver. Even in terms of reaching out for support to be able to create an artwork. For example, if they are working on art that incorporates sound, as in some video installations, It is quite common these days that they will work together with a sound technician to maximize the quality of the piece.
ING Polish Art Foundation’s collection includes the works of Zbigniew Libera, Edward Dwurnik, Leon Tarasewicz, Zuzanna Janin, Wilhelm Sasnal, Tomasz Ciecierski, Olga Wolniak, Stefan Gierwoski, Zbigniew Makowski, Jerzy Nowosielski, Zofia Kulik, Jaroslaw Modzelewski, and many more.