Poland’s National Museum expands modern art wing

By Vanessa Gera, AP

WARSAW, Poland–Poland’s National Museum in Warsaw has opened an expanded gallery devoted to 20th- and 21st-century Polish art, with officials hailing it as the most comprehensive permanent collection of modern and contemporary art in the nation’s capital.

More than 220 objects went on view at an inauguration Friday night. The bulk of the exhibition is made up of paintings but there also are a number of sculptures, video installations and photo montages, with all the works spanning the past century.

Museum Director Agnieszka Morawinska told a large gathering of people that the gallery is very important for both the museum and the city “because for the first time there is such a space in Warsaw where you can see how Polish art developed from World War I until today.”

Museum officials say there was an urgent need for such a collection because until now there was no exhibition in Warsaw that gave the full scope of Polish art in that era, with other collections small, fragmentary or still being created.

“It’s a huge gap that we managed to fill,” Morawinska said.

The works show Polish artists adopting expressionism and abstract and avant-garde styles in vogue in Paris and elsewhere in the West, even as they grappled with national traumas such as communism and the horrors of World War II.

The museum says the collection reflects not just the changing esthetics over the decades, but also the emotional tenor during a “dramatic time for Poland and the world.”

Poles welcomed the rebirth of an independent state at the end of World War I, built up a new republic, and then witnessed massive destruction and death during World War II, followed then by decades of communism. The country reemerged as a free and democratic state in 1989 — and the opening of the new gallery is part of a new cultural and economic flourishing the country has witnessed since.

Most of the collection has long been in the museum’s holdings, with a few on view, but until now there was not a large wing where so many could be shown at once, the curator, Piotr Rypson said. In addition, about 20 new pieces were acquired for the new gallery, he said.

An example of one of the works on view is “Surrealist Execution (Execution VIII)” by a leading 20th century Polish artist, Tadeusz Wroblewski. Painted in 1949, the work depicts Poles being executed by Germans during the wartime occupation.