Rationed Modernity. Modernism in the Polish People’s Republic

Friday, November 17, 2023 - Sunday, April 14, 2024

  • Friday, November 17, 2023 - Sunday, April 14, 2024

Exhibition focuses on the determinants and limitations of modernisation processes in Poland after World War II. They were both economic and organisational in nature, as well as politically related to the functioning of undemocratic authorities that imposed ideological restrictions on culture.

Importantly, however, the issue of the limitations of modernism in the times of the Polish People’s Republic is not presented in the exhibition in terms of the contest between artists and the political authorities for artistic freedom. In a metaphorical shortcut, rationing means limitations of various nature: an impoverished selection of action options, activity variants, inspirations, and ways of implementation. It may result not only from externally imposed circumstances and determinants, but also from the self-limitations of the entity engaging in the modernisation processes. In this sense, the exhibition abstracts from the widespread myth equating the functioning of modern art in the Polish People’s Republic with the fight for the spiritual and political freedom of the individual. Submitting to this myth cuts off modernism from its historical basis and moves us away from understanding the complications of the modernisation of the Polish People’s Republic and its connections with artistic creativity. The exhibition therefore firstly highlights the tension between modernist visual languages and the war experience; secondly, the effects resulting from ideological pressure on the modernist imperative of the social function of art; and thirdly, the phantom nature of the modernisation of the Polish People’s Republic and its dependence on adopted modernisation patterns contrasted with the deformations of modernist projects characterising everyday life in the times of the PRL.

All this makes the Rationed Modernity exhibition – the third show in the 4 x modernity series – not so much an attempt at an encyclopaedic presentation of the artistic achievements of a given period, but a statement on the shape and fate of the next stage of modernism in Poland after the interwar period.

Other: acceptable for people with disabilities

The Main Building

al. 3 Maja 1

The central phenomena of the Polish art of the 20th and 21st century, the history of Polish weaponry and uniforms, a gallery of crafts, and a dozen major temporary exhibitions each year.

The quickly expanding collection of the National Museum, set up in 1879, soon needed space that Kraków did not have at that time. That is why the idea to erect a new building that at the same time would commemorate the many years of efforts to regain Poland’s independence was born early in the 20th century. Immediately after the end of the First World War, already in free Poland, funds for the construction of an appropriate seat began to be raised. The construction of the building by the imposing Aleje Trzech Wieszczów, staked out just two decades earlier, began in 1934. Today, the National Museum in Kraków boasts several branches, with no fewer than three permanent galleries in the Main Building alone. Deposited on the ground floor are the collections of militaria: the exhibition Arms and Uniforms in Poland (gallery closed until further notice) presents the history of the Polish military from the Middle Ages to the Second World War. The Gallery of Decorative Arts boasts collections of fabrics, goldsmithry, glass, ceramics, furniture, musical instruments, and Judaica that let the visitor trace changes in style from the early Middle Ages to the 20th century. The Polish Art Gallery presents the chronology and key tendencies in painting, sculpture and printmaking as created by the Polish artists of the 20th and 21st century. The largest temporary exhibitions of the National Museum in Kraków are organised in specially designed halls.

Tickets to permanent galleries: normal PLN 32, concessions PLN 25, family PLN 64, admission free to permanent exhibitions on Tuesday

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