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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » February 25, 2011
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Polish Design After Stalin
February 25, 2011   
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Some of the foremost examples of Polish design, rarely seen in the West, are on display at the National Museum in Warsaw.

The exhibition explores the significance of objects of everyday use in shaping modern Polish identity. It comprises around 180 items produced in the 13 years after 1955, when a political thaw following the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin prompted artists in this part of the world to embrace modernism.

The exhibition showcases a range of applied arts of the period, including ceramics, glass, textiles, furniture, and other household objects, periodicals, photographs, and film. Apart from its focus on the purely esthetic values of the objects presented in glass cases, the exhibition also shows the “social life” of the works on display, namely the ways in which those objects were represented in periodicals and films promoting modern forms of life, and the ways in which they were used by consumers in communist Poland after the death of Stalin.

The exhibition focuses on one of the most exciting periods of Polish design, between the political thaw of 1955 and the social changes that swept the country in 1968. Spanning just over 10 years, the period gave rise to an abundance of daring experiments that made a lasting impact on design in the years to come.

The political thaw led to a new embrace of modernism in art. After socialist realism, abstract painting became particularly attractive for artists and some viewers. Abstract art was widely identified with freedom. Designers embraced this idiom as well, and patterns on ceramics often followed the esthetic of art informel and matter painting.

The second half of the 1950s saw the production of a series of sophisticated chairs. Despite wide interest in new synthetic materials, which were the result of scientific research, access to these was limited in Poland. Even so, several designers produced pioneering furniture from synthetic fibers at the end of the 1950s. In furniture experiments, metal frames were filled with metal netting, nylon cord, straw or wicker. The end result could evoke a sculpture more than a piece of furniture.

A number of events, including lectures, study days and film screenings, accompany the exhibition.

We want to be modern.
Polish design 1955-1968
from the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw.
Until April 17
National Museum in Warsaw; 3 Jerozolimskie Ave.
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