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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » December 13, 2015
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Wroc³aw: A European Capital of Culture
December 13, 2015   
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Piotr Oszczanowski, director of the National Museum in Wroc³aw, talks to Barbara Derêgowska about the city’s impact on European art.

Major events await Wroc³aw next year in conjunction with the city’s designation as a European Capital of Culture in 2016. How will the National Museum contribute to the celebrations?
The year 2016 is a special one for us for a number of reasons. First and foremost, on June 25 we will reopen a branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art in its new headquarters in the Four Domes Pavilion, which has been renovated using EU funds. Our rich, 20,000-item collection of contemporary Polish art was previously stored in warehouses and, whether at the museum or elsewhere, we were only able to exhibit a small part of it. Several years ago, we opened a gallery in the attic of our museum with around 300 works of contemporary art, but that did not solve the problem. The problem was, in fact, getting worse due to the obvious dilemma as to what items to choose to properly demonstrate trends in contemporary art. Such art necessitates a certain form of exhibition where, rather than showing as many paintings and sculptures as possible, you want to show the most representative items. That said, it is important that the newly renovated Pavilion will double our exhibition space, also allowing us to give many young artists a chance. We are happy to finally give audiences a fully comfortable setting to interact with art. We will now also be able to exhibit extensive collections of post-1945 prints and photographs. By opening the superb exhibition space in the historic Four Domes Pavilion, we will automatically become part of the main cultural celebrations in Wroc³aw.

What else will you do to strengthen the image of Wroc³aw as a European city with a distinct cultural identity?
Given this unique opportunity to showcase the city’s rich cultural life, we have two other projects in store. First, we will have two prominent guests from Austria: theater director Jacqueline Kornmüller and producer Peter Wolf. They are bringing a project entitled Museum of Dreams that combines theater, painting, literature and music. As part of the project, performances for small audiences will be staged next to selected items on show at the museum. Each such scene will feature an actor, a musician or a dancer.

The other project is an educational exhibition entitled Wroc³aw’s Europe. It is designed to showcase local art in the context of next year’s events. It aims to teach European audiences about the importance of [Poland’s] Lower Silesia region [of which Wroc³aw is the main city] and highlight Wroc³aw’s impact on world culture. Our main focus is on the first half of the 17th century, the time of the Thirty Years War when “the Muses turned silent.” Or did they? It turns out that in Wroc³aw, that seemingly art-unfriendly time produced whole new trends in art and I mean both visual arts and literature. We will show why it’s worth highlighting the achievements of remarkable cultural, artistic and political figures who vanished from exhibitions and our research agenda for different reasons. I am happy to be given the opportunity to introduce audiences to Bart³omiej Strobel, one of the greatest Polish painters. Born in Wroc³aw, he lived here for 40 years. His legacy includes one of the world’s most famous allegories, Feast of Herod with the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, displayed at the Prado museum in Madrid.

By rediscovering different masterpieces, we will help Polish and foreign visitors realize that Wroc³aw is where history happened.

Wroc³aw’s Europe
The first ever museum exhibition of work by Bart³omiej Strobel, a Wroc³aw-based 17th-century painter. Even though Strobel is regarded as one of the greatest Central European painters, audiences are not generally familiar with his work. The exhibition will also feature Bishop Charles Ferdinand Vasa, a patron of the arts who put Wroc³aw on the cultural map of 17th-century Europe.
Sept. 19-Dec. 31, 2016
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