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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » April 26, 2012
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National Museum in Warsaw Turns 150
April 26, 2012   
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The National Museum in Warsaw starts celebrating its 150th anniversary this May. The anniversary celebrations begin May 17-20 with the reopening of refurbished interiors, a new exhibition, concerts, movie screenings and a family picnic. Anniversary-linked events will continue for 12 months.

One of the oldest art museums in Poland, The National Museum in Warsaw, was established in 1862 as the Museum of Fine Arts. After Poland regained independence in 1918, the new country and its capital, Warsaw, had big plans for the National Museum. The modernist building which at present houses the museum on Jerozolimskie Avenue was built in 1927-1938, designed by Tadeusz Tołwiński and Antoni Dygat.

During World War II German bombs fell on the museum and part of its collection was destroyed, but most of it survived owing to determined efforts by the museum staff. Their silent struggle against the Nazis continued even after the museum was given the German name of Museum der Stadt Warschau. The staff meticulously documented items which were being shipped away to the Reich, making sure that once the war was over, they could be retrieved.

The museum returned to Polish hands on May 7, 1945, and regained its Polish name. Two campaigns were then launched to rebuild the damaged collections. The museum managed to regain items plundered by the Nazis. As a result of the other campaign, aimed at enlarging the collections, within ten years the museum housed four times more items than it had before World War II. At present, The National Museum in Warsaw collections comprise around 830,000 works of art from Poland and abroad, dating from ancient times to the 21st century. They include paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, coins, applied art and industrial design.

The National Museum in Warsaw has four branches, including two in Warsaw: The Wilanów Poster Museum and The Xawery Dunikowski Museum of Sculpture in the Królikarnia Palace. The other two are The Museum of Interiors in Otwock Wielki, 30 km southeast of Warsaw, and The Museum in Nieborów and Arkadia, Łowicz county, 50 km west of Warsaw.

The National Museum in Warsaw is going through an unprecedented makeover which involves a general overhaul of the interiors and rearrangements and relocation of the museum’s permanent galleries. As part of the project, it will publish state-of-the-art multimedia guides in two languages and set up an open WiFi network on the premises.

The refurbishment project will also cover the building’s courtyards and the museum will open a new cafeteria and have its screening room renovated. The room will also serve as a venue for meetings with artists.

The museum aims to establish a visitor-friendly educational space with a number of attractions for children. It also wants to highlight its significance as a Polish and European center of culture where both individuals and families with children can spend quality time.

The first rearranged galleries will be unveiled to the public May 18, 10 a.m. They are The Gallery of Early European Painting, The Gallery of Early Polish and European Portraits and The Gallery of 19th-Century Art. The latter primarily comprises works by Polish painters and sculptors, shown alongside a selection of works by artists of other nationalities.

The Gallery of Medieval Art and The Gallery of 20th and 21st-Century Art will be reopened in the latter half of this year, while at the beginning of next year, the museum will complete work on The Gallery of Ancient Art, The Faras Gallery and exhibitions of handicrafts, coins and photographs.

Together, the new museum galleries will aim to paint a picture of the shared legacy of European civilization, but will also highlight the differences between individual regions and time periods. The result will be a narrative of the art of Poland, Europe and the world.

Anniversary exhibitions in 2012
The Elevated: From the Pharaohs to Lady Gaga, May 17-Sept. 23

Ranging from ancient to contemporary civilization, the exhibition studies social and political hierarchies and the mechanisms which build the prestige, standing and public image of people who are in power or crave power.

Standing in the Master’s Shadow: Sara Lipska (Królikarnia Palace), Aug. 19-Nov. 4

An overview of works by Sara Lipska (1882-1973), a Polish artist who lived in Paris and was the muse of the great Polish sculptor Xawery Dunikowski. Lipska was a versatile artist whose work included sculpted portraits, decorative sculptures, paintings, set designs and costumes. She also designed clothes for the likes of Helena Rubinstein and produced portraits of the most prominent members of the artistic community of Paris.

National Museum; 3 Jerozolimskie Ave.; www.mnw.art.pl
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