Temporary Exhibition: Archeomoderne. Polish Modern Art and State-Building Myths

Virtual vernissage (facebook.com/muzeum.szczecin): March 12th 2021
Exhibition available (with appropriate sanitary regime) since March 13th 2021

After World War II the Polish territory moved towards the west. In exchange for large, mainly agricultural areas of the Eastern Borderlands, the state now gained lands located along the Baltic Sea and the Odra and Nysa Łużycka Rivers - smaller in terms of area, but much more intensely modernized. In the interwar enivironments of the National Democracy period, they were sometimes called the Non-Liberated Borderlands. Then the communist propaganda began to use the term Recovered Territories, attached to the "former lands" of the Republic of Poland. The new areas were identified with the dominion of the first Piasts, although in fact not all of them were part of it. The cities deprived of the German element - Olsztyn, Słupsk, Koszalin, Gorzów nad Wartą, Zielona Góra, Legnica and Opole - were transformed into centres of life for ethnically unified displaced Poles. Their assimilation in a foreign environment required categoric actions of cultural policy, the centres of which were, among others, museums.

The idea of ​​returning to the early Piast territories resulted in the concentration of interests on two poles: on archaeological and anthropological research and on animating a new artistic environment. In the autumn of 1945, the position of the Director of the City Museum in Szczecin was entrusted to the archaeologist Bogdan Kostrzewski, son of a famous professor from Poznań who was the discoverer of Biskupin. In the years 1946–1947, the future of art and science in the Recovered Territories was decided by two industry conferences, during which professor Stanisław Lorentz, the Director of the National Museum in Warsaw, announced his fateful postulates. Although the Szczecin museum was already headed by the sculptor Lech Krzekotowski at that time, Lorenz assigned the greatest culture-creating role to the prehistoric and early-historical department. Further, he pointed at the ethnographic and natural science departments. He planned to organize the "least important Department of Art" as needed "from the point of view of cultural history." The missionary function was to be given to exhibitions of Polish contemporary art.

Therefore, the archaeological environment gained the strongest position in West Pomerania. Contrary to Gdańsk and Wrocław, where art high-level schools were established, Szczecin did not manage to attract outstanding theorists of modern art. Visual artists functionned in symbiosis with prehistorians (Tadeusz Wieczorowski, Władysław Filipowiak), medievalists (Leopold Kusztelski, Zofia Krzymuska-Fafius, Wiktor Fenrych) and ethnographers (Tadeusz Delimat). Excavations in the area of the Szczecin castle and the borough as well as many other sites in the region drew the creators' attention to the formal features of local "antiquities", which became a source of inspiration. The culmination of this process took place during the numerous years of researcher of Wolin Professor Filipowiak's management of the museum (1955–2000), including the celebration of two millennia: of the Polish state (1966) and of the Battle of Cedynia (1972).

The "Archeomoderne" exhibition, intended to be the 75th anniversary of Polish museology in Szczecin and the 50th anniversary of the institution being granted the rank of a National Museum, shows the peculiarity of the local art collections in the context of that interdisciplinary rapprochement. On account of the objects lent by numerous institutions and private collectors, it allows us to outline the history of this alliance, dating back to the 19th century, and the 20th-century national background. The prehistoric-ethnographic frame also offers a new look at some directions of post-war Modernism, from surrealism through matter painting to new sculpture and applied arts, in the perspective of the central policy of the state, emphasizing its long-lasting or even eternal monocultural character. Today, this structure reveals its identity as a myth: modified and performed in response to the needs of internal nation management and its external representation. Works of art also testify to the assimilation of international trends both in the field of anthropological sciences and visual arts.

Dr. Szymon Piotr Kubiak
the exhibition Curator