Poznań – a half-way point between two vivid cultural capitals, Warsaw and Berlin. What does the art scene in the fifth-largest city in Poland has to offer?
Written by Marta Kabsch.
There are very few public institutions dedicated to modern and contemporary art in Poznań. Beside the National Museum, which is not very keen in following the newest trends of art, there are two venues worth noting: Galeria Miejska Arsenał (Arsenal City Art Gallery) and Centrum Kultury Zamek (Zamek Cultural Centre). Arsenał holds numerous temporary exhibitions, putting in the spotlight primarily local artists. In 2011, the gallery created an exhibition with a meaningful title “Art of Poznań”, which was an attempt to summarize the artistic life of the city in the last twenty five years.
Zamek, on the other hand, is an interdisciplinary institution hosting various events, from film and music festivals, to international Mediations Biennale, which is the largest contemporary art event that takes place in Poznań. The Centre is located in Neo-Romanesque castle, constructed for German Emperor, Wilhelm II, in 1910.
The actual creative drive of the city is the University of Arts, which is considered to be the best one in Poland. Since 1980s, the main focus of the University has been the new media. Many of the University graduates are recognized as the most influential Polish artists of young generation, including Wojciech Bąkowski, Konrad Smoleński, Monika Sosnowska and others.
Although Poznań is a real hotbed of artistic talents, the great number of interesting artists educated in the town does not necessarily translate into an impressive number of private art galleries. The older “generation” of the galleries include Ego, Muzalewska or Piekary. Relatively young gallerists slowly move their venues to Warsaw, where it is much easier to attract the audience, media attention and – most importantly – clients. These galleries are Starter, Stereo and Dawid Radziszewski (former owner of the Poznań gallery Pies) – the last two have moved to the capital in 2013.
A unique place on the Poznań cultural map is Stary Browar (opened in 2003) – a hybrid of a shopping mall and an art gallery. The founder of the place is Grażyna Kulczyk, entrepreneur and art collector. Her passion for contemporary art has become an inspiration for the concept of Stary Browar, which offers the visitors not only a possibility to shop Polish and international high street and luxurious brands, but also to participate in art exhibitions and contemporary dance performances. The artistic offer of Stary Browar is produced by Art Stations Foundation by Grażyna Kulczyk (former Kulczyk Foundation).
The Foundation develops two main programs: exhibition and live performances. The first one is housed by Art Stations gallery, located in the middle of the Centre, the latter in Studio Słodownia +3 with a professional dance stage.
The exhibition program is based on Grażyna Kulczyk Collection. The collection is a starting point for every curator invited to create an exhibition concept for Art Stations gallery. Thanks to the international profile of the collection, the audience in Stary Browar has been given a chance to see the works of Olafur Eliasson, Roman Opałka, Donald Judd, Jenny Holzer, Zhang Huan, among others.
The majority of the exhibitions are group shows combing the artworks of the “masters” of modern and contemporary art with the pieces by younger generation, including some local talents. The example of such strategy can be a recent show, “Things in Common”, organized by the Foundation in collaboration with Zuzanna Hadryś and Michał Lasota, curators and owners of Stereo gallery (recently moved from Poznań to Warsaw, as mentioned above). The exhibition presented a selection of works from Grażyna Kulczyk Collection: pieces by great Polish individuals of older generation, including Edward Krasiński, Mikołaj Smoczyński, Zygmunt Rytka, and artworks by international artists like Sol LeWitt and Andreas Gursky, juxtaposed with installations and objects made by young Polish artists, the majority of whom was educated in Poznań: Wojciech Bąkowski, Gizela Mickiewicz, Mateusz Sadowski and Piotr Łakomy. This show presented some of the major interests of young Poznań art scene: minimal aesthetics, focus on everyday environment as a point of reference and, finally, combining visual forms with sound.
Art Stations Foundation also provides an extended education program accompanying each of the exhibitions in the gallery. Beside curatorial guided tours, workshops for kids and meetings for seniors, the Foundation created a series of seminars called Art in Practice, dedicated primarily to students and graduates of art history and cultural studies. The aim of these workshops was to bring to Poznań interesting individuals – curators, art critics, cultural managers – who could share their knowledge and experience – especially all the practical aspects of their jobs – with the participants. Among the guests invited by the Foundation to run the workshops were Łukasz Gorczyca, the gallerist and art critic, founder of Raster gallery, Agnieszka Pindera, the curator of Polish Pavilion at Venice Biennale in 2013, René Block, German curator, and many more. In November, the seminar was conducted by VIENNAFAIR artistic director Vita Zaman, who talked about her work in UK, US and finally in Austria, and how all of these experiences had influenced her current job.
Art Stations is an unusual art spot, not only on the local level, but in the entire region and country. It is not very common (at least not in Poland) that private funds are used for the purpose of not only promoting contemporary art, but also educating the audience in the current state of local and international art trends.
Poznań, associated mostly with business and commerce, is a town with a great potential to develop a unique art scene, unless it tries to be „the next Berlin” or „the next Warsaw”. It may not be the best location to open an art gallery at the moment, and even though it lacks a strong public institution dedicated to contemporary art, it can serve as a „laboratory” for numerous interesting, non-commercial art initiatives. Especially, with having so many young talents accumulated at the local art university.
Marta Kabsch (b. 1987), lives and works in Poznań. She studied art history and public relations. Since 2011 she is a member of Art Stations Foundation team.