Anna Bohdziewicz, “Photojournal”, 1988, collection of Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź.
Anton Stankowski, "On Lake Zurich", 1930, collection of Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź
Roman Opałka, "OPAŁKA 1965/1-∞, Detail 5420120", before 2001, collection of Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź
The collection of photographs at Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, put together by Urszula Czartoryska, was being created with a perfect sense of the pulse of the then present day. It was created with an understanding of the dynamic changes within visual culture as well as individual creative processes taking place. It reflects the key moments in the history of photography and the changing role of this very medium. The exhibition in ms² will present the public with the character and working practice of an outstanding curator and art critic. Her research, written work, on top of her curiosity about photography in all its manifestations have shaped not only the collection of the museum but also the entire generations of Polish artists.
The title of the exhibition comes from a written piece by Czartoryska. It defines a creative and research attitude that is associated with vigilance, openness and commitment. In the contemporary context, it allows us to notice that categories such as sensitivity, tenderness or the work of caring are not newly constructed but rediscovered concepts.
The exhibition is built around four themes that particularly interested Czartoryska as a researcher. The titles of these parts are taken from her own writings. The chapter called Contested Photography presents the experiments and explorations of artists who were interested in researching the tensions between photography and reality. They question the transparency and objectivity of the photographic image. Next section – Private, Super-private, Anti-private – tells us about the migration of photography from the private to the public sphere. The chapter – Deforming Images of the World – covers the work of artists who used photography to describe subjective experiences. The last one – Points of Contact with the World – is devoted to documentary photography.
Czartoryska perceived photography as a complex combination of artistic and social phenomena. She approached the works of amateur or artisan photographers with the same attention she gave to the avant-garde photography. She treated interventional reportage and humanistic photography in the similar way. She emphasized that it is impossible to understand the phenomenon of photography in isolation from other areas of culture, such as: visual arts, film, or press. In the 1970s, she already indicated the need for a critical approach to photography and stressed the need for visual education. Still, she wrote about the dangers of overloading the public sphere with photographs. She drew attention to the vanishing of the boundaries between what is private and what is public in photography, as well as to the obligation of respecting the personal boundaries of the photographed characters (people) and the ethical presentation of them. All of these issues have gained momentum now – with the digital revolution and the emergence of social media.
The rich collection of the photographs at Muzeum Sztuki – over 3,000 works of which the exhibition presents 170 – makes it possible to show the continuity of artistic exploration and the development of selected creative attitudes from the late 19th century, through the 20th, and to the early 21st century. It also allows us to trace the evolution of the medium described by Czartoryska as “an absolutely unique means of communication”.
At the exhibition, we will be able to see the photographs of, among others, such artists as: Konrad Brandel, Jan Bułhak, Janusz Maria Brzeski, Wojciech Bruszewski, Zbigniew Dłubak, Bogdan Dziworski, Teresa Gierzyńska, Krystyna Gorazdowska, Zdzisław Jurkiewicz, Edward Hartwig, Florence Henri, Jarosław Kozłowski, Aleksander Krzywobłocki, Jalu Kurek, Natalia Lach-Lachowicz, Jerzy Lewczyński, Bożena Michalik, Antoni Mikołajczyk, Nadar, Fortunata Obrąpalska, Roman Opałka, Marek Piasecki, Julia Pirotte, Józef Robakowski, Eva Rubinstein, Zofia Rydet, Mikołaj Smoczyński, Bronisław Schlabs, Anton Stankowski, Andrzej Strumiłło, Jindřich , Antanas Sutkus, Stefan Themerson and Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. Apart from these, there will also be anonymous and private photographs, which Czartoryska had included in the museum collection and in this way made them available to the public. Thus, she pointed to the growing tendency for the private sphere to penetrate the public one, which at present – in the age of the Internet – is unprecedentedly intensified.
URSZULA CZARTORYSKA – BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
Czartoryska was an art historian and critic for most of her professional life associated with Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź. During her studies at the Catholic University of Lublin, she was connected with the artists from Grupa Zamek, keeping close relations with Jerzy Ludwiński, an outstanding theoretician of contemporary art. After graduating, she moved to Warsaw, where, in cooperation with Zbigniew Dłubak, editor-in-chief, she co-founded the “Fotografia” [Photography] magazine. It was an extremely important period in her professional career, the one that shaped her as an art critic. In 1966, her husband, Ryszard Stanisławski, was offered a position of the director of Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź. Soon, together with their daughter Olga, they all came to Łódź and moved to a flat in the museum building in Więckowskiego Street. Their private life was closely related to the functioning of this institution. In 1977, Czartoryska started working at the museum, too, where she began setting up the Department of Photography and Visual Techniques and building the collection of photographs. She was a curator of tens of exhibitions and participated in the works on most of the museum’s great projects, such as e.g., Présences Polonaises (Paris, 1983) Polish Photography (New York, 1979). She also took part in the work on the project that was created jointly by Ryszard Stanisławski and Christoph Brockhaus, called Europa, Europa (Bonn, 1994). Apart from this, Czartoryska was engaged in didactic work: she taught and lectured at the University of Łódź, at the State Higher School of Fine Arts (now University of the Arts) in Poznań, and at the College of Photography in Warsaw.
She participated in the artistic life of Poland and around the world, often travelled and visited cultural institutions and exhibitions abroad. From each such trip, she would bring notes, sketches for articles and essays, and a plentitud of inspirations. She published hundreds of articles as well as two books. Both, The Art Adventures of Photography (1965) and From Pop-Art to Conceptual Art (1973), being quite pioneering in Poland, have shaped generations of artists and art theorists.
The exhibition was created in cooperation with the Museum Sztuki in Łódź.