Artists from Krakow: The Second Krakow Group

Thursday, March 30, 2023, 6:00 PM - Sunday, September 24, 2023

  • Thursday, March 30, 2023, 6:00 PM - Sunday, September 24, 2023

A group exhibition presenting works by members of the Second Krakow Group founded in 1957. This is the fourth exhibition in the series "Artists from Krakow" inaugurated by MOCAK in October 2015. Some of the works on display come from the MOCAK Collection and Archive.

“In 1957, the second Krakow Group was formed, an association of independent artists, each with a different way of thinking but all equally committed to art. They were individualists, but what united them was their interest in contemporary art. The basic prerequisite for being invited to join the Group was a creative ‘neurosis’ – a feeling of intoxication with the drug that was making art. In this approach, the second Krakow Group was a few years ahead of Fluxus. It became the Polish avant-garde of postmodernism. Despite its name, artists from cities other than Krakow could also become members.

In 1958, the Group applied to the city hall to be allocated premises for a gallery. Krakow had always been brave in such matters.[1] The Group was granted a cellar in the Krzysztofory Palace. This bold decision by officials was both a political and a cultural gesture, inspired by the tail end of the ‘thaw’. The artists were offered a space to practise their art and – incidentally, and unintentionally – a place to exercise artistic independence. The Krakow Group took advantage of both opportunities. The Krzysztofory Gallery was the first exhibition space offered to artists in the history of Poland.

Every member of the Group was entitled to exhibit at Krzysztofory, on the basis of its democratic founding. However, at some point a dictatorship emerged. The Krzysztofory rules succumbed to the personality of Tadeusz Kantor, whose talent and ego were indomitable and non-negotiable. He was a predator, naturally expansive, who changed his intellectual guises with ease. He painted expressive paintings, devised witty happenings, created theatre imbued with pathos and wrote insightful and prophetic manifestos. He commanded submission, but even more, he fascinated and inspired.

Kantor’s domination ended with the creation of Cricoteka. The Krzysztofory Gallery returned to its former openness and democracy – mitigated by artistic quality, of course. Over the 52 years of its existence, several hundred exhibitions, performances, meetings, lectures and theatre productions were organised at Krzysztofory. As well as the Group members, artists from all over the world have exhibited there.

After Stanisław Balewicz, Józef Chrobak became the director of Krzysztofory. This detective of culture and exposer of its hidden mechanisms collected all the documents and gossip related to the functioning of the Gallery and the Group, and published them in the multi-volume series Grupa Krakowska (dokumenty i materiały) [Grupa Krakowska (Krakow Group Documents and Materials)]. Thanks to his inquisitiveness and dedication, the operation of this most important formation of artists in post-war Poland gained a permanent and professional image in the history of art.

At a certain point, after the mid-1990s, the Krakow Group ceased to expand. It was most likely felt that the point of such initiatives had been exhausted. Józik Chrobak certainly thought so. In any case, the Krakow Group decided to commit suicide through withering on the wine. Today only a few members are still alive: Janusz Tarabuła, Andrzej Kostołowski and Zbigniew Warpechowski.

But the memory of this empire of artists seems safe”. (Krakow Group – Founding Myth of Polish Contemporary Art, Anna Maria Potocka, curator of the exhibition)

[1] Fourteen  years later, in 1972, I applied to the Department of Culture of the City Council for permission to run a private gallery in my flat. And permission was granted!

MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow

ul. Lipowa 4

The combination of post-industrial atmosphere with a modern and functional glass and concrete structure provides a perfect framework for the presentation of important phenomena in the art of the last five decades.

A memory of the former production halls of the enamelware factory (known from Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List) melds here with a modern and functional structure of glass and concrete, providing a perfect setting for the presentation of contemporary art. MOCAK has its own, regularly expanded collection of art (both Polish and foreign) from the last five decades, and its development can be traced in the successive variations of the permanent exhibition. It has been divided into a number of sections: conceptualism, video, sculpture, and objects. It is also the venue for numerous temporary exhibitions, including a large annual problematic exhibition confronting selected questions in contemporary public life with the artists’ outlook (the presentations made so far have focused among others on history, sport, economics, crime, gender, and medicine in art). Moreover, MOCAK regularly hosts exhibitions of Kraków Photo Month. The museum runs its own library with a book collection devoted to contemporary art and humanities, runs educational activities, and manages and implements research and publication projects.

Tickets: normal PLN 20, concessions PLN 10, family PLN 43, admission free to permanent exhibitions on Thursday

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