Contemporary Art - National Museum in Szczecin Poland

Since the museum in Szczecin was created after the war, collecting and popularization of contemporary art have been one of the main tasks of its public activity. First acquisitions appeared in the Polish most recent art collection as soon as in 1946. Simultaneously with efforts to obtain artworks by authors who defined the most important trends in Polish art, systematic documentation of the output of Szczecin’s and Pomeranian artistic environment was initiated. On account of cultural traditions and the location of the city, during first decades of building the collection, a particular emphasis was put on maritime issues. In mid 1960s, a decision was made to create a collection of contemporary foreign art, to complement the Polish one. Now Szczecin’s contemporary art collection consists of over five thousand works (including around 500 objects of foreign art). It includes paintings, graphics, drawings, sculptures, objects and installations as well, as applied arts. In 2005 the collection was enriched by a deposit of over 250 objects of  Regionalna Zachęta Sztuki Współczesnej in Szczecin; dominated by works by artists of the field of so-called new media.

Dynamics of obtaining new works for the contemporary Polish art collection was changing within last six decades. From 1950s to 1970s the collection was developing intensively, illustrating most important stylistic streams and tendencies. At the beginning of 1980s the development process was inhibited, and accelerated again since mid 1990s. Creating the foreign art collection, initiated in mid 1960s, until late 1980s was mainly basing on the choice of works shown during festivals and art fairs, such as Presentations of the Painters of the Socialist Countries in Szczecin, International Print Biennial and Triennial in Cracow and International Socialist Countries Art Fair Interart in Poznań. Until 1989 rich representation of works by artists of former Eastern Bloc came to existence in Szczecin. In 1970s the geographical range of the collection was broadened with the art of countries bordering the Baltic Sea. Since 1990s Szczecin’s collection of foreign art is being enriched by, among others, works obtained within Baltic exhibition-research Mare Articum program, coordinated by the National Museum in Szczecin. Szczecin’s collection of contemporary art owes its value to cohesive, and still being extended, collection of Polish classics and precious, unique group of works by artists form Szczecin and Western Pomerania.

Among the works by Polish creators of first three post-war decades, two mutually complementary tendencies dominate. First of them is inspired by the output of Polish and foreign avant-garde of the beginning of the 20th century; the second one artistically develops traditional illustrating manners. They are the legacy of postwar Colourism. A linking point between interwar avant-garde and artistic tendencies of postwar years are the outputs of Władysław Strzemiński and Henryk Stażewski, who are among the most outstanding Polish artists of the 20th century. In a special place in the collection there are exceptionally precious works by artists related to the Group of Young Visual Artists, later called the Second Cracow Group, created in 1946, continuing the traditions of avant-garde experiment within both artistic techniques and illustrating manners leaning towards nonrepresentational art. Szczecin’s collection has been obtaining superb paintings by artists who vitally influenced the climate of Polish art of 1940s and 1950s.: Tadeusz Brzozowski, Maria Jarema, Tadeusz Kantor, Adam Marczyński, Jadwiga Maziarska, Jerzy Nowosielski and Jonasz Stern.  Strzemiński’s and Stażewski’s outputs greatly influenced young Polish creators’ new artistic sensivity. They inspired artists who are considered modernity classics, among others Stefan Gierowski, Edward Krasiński and Stefan Krygier; those who preferred analytic approach towards the artwork, as well, as those who focused on the matter of the artwork, emphasizing the role and meaning of texture for the picture, like Bronisław Kierzkowski or Jerzy Rosołowicz.

Piotr Potworowski and Tadeusz Dominik were ones of the most outstanding continuators of pre-war Colourist tradition. Their works are a counterpoint to the Museum's collection of Polish avant-garde. In their work, an impulse originating from observing the nature and colour sensivity was processed into well-thought-out synthetic arrangement of colourful smudges. Whereas painting transformation of landscape was the most inspiring artistic action for Potworowski and Dominik, for numerous artists the most important experience became painting view of human figure. In 1970s and 1980s figurative painting manifested its presence and power again. Numerous exceptional individuals, such as Eugeniusz Markowski, Jerzy „Jurry” Zieliński or Jacek Rykała joined the tradition of postwar Polish figurative art. Using different means of painting and different intensity of the communicate, they placed human, human relations and their cultural context in the centre of artistic narration.

Humans and the world of symbols created by them were one of the main threads of the outputs of Władysław Hasior and Jerzy Bereś, artists, for whom material object of art was often an element of an action in a form of performance or happening.

A new approach towards artistic issues, characterizing the art of 1980s and 1990s, using the language of postmodernism, may be found in neo-expressionistic works by Krzysztof Skarbek or ironic processing of cultural veins characterizing Paweł Łubowski’s output. In the Museum collection, there are also, originating form the same period, works by artists crossing the limits of traditional genres, who join various means of expression, e.g. photography, video or performance, in their intermedia output such, as Andrzej Dudek-Dürer, Mikołaj Smoczyński, Antoni Mikołajczyk and Józef Robakowski. Works by artists related to Szczecin and Pomerania – Ryszard Tokarczyk, Andrzej Ciesielski, Danuta Dąbrowska and Waldemar Wojciechowski – belong to a group of the most precious objects of Polish art of three recent decades.