Poland gets its first contemporary collection

Art on loan for ten years from dealer Rafael Jablonka goes on view at the National Museum this month

KRAKOW. The National Museum in Krakow is scheduled to open a new department of contemporary Western art this month—the first devoted to a collection of this kind in Poland, according to the institution. Fifty works, loaned by the Cologne-based, Polish-born art dealer Rafael Jablonka, will go on public view on 29 May.

Despite the increasing success of contemporary Polish artists, such as the Krakow-based painter Wilhelm Sasnal, major institutions—which were under communist control until 1989—have only recently become interested in, or had sufficient budgets to collect contemporary Western art.

Mr Jablonka has loaned the works for 18 months, with a view to lending them permanently to the museum. The works will remain Mr Jablonka’s property during his lifetime and no payment has been made by the museum. He told The Art Newspaper that he intends to add to the collection over the course of the next few years. “This is just a first step,” he says.

The collection includes pieces by ten post-modern artists, each of which will be housed in a separate room. They are: Nobuyoshi Araki, Miquel Barceló, Francesco Clemente, Eric Fischl, Mike Kelley, David LaChapelle, Sherrie Levine, Andreas Slominski, Philip Taaffe and Andy Warhol.

“Most of these artists gained prominence during the 1980s. While they do not represent a homogeneous group, their collective appearance is an opportunity to gather insights into the diversity and fascination of the visual arts today,” says Mr Jablonka, who studied in Krakow and has long held a wish to see contemporary art in the National Museum, which he regularly visited as a student.

The National Museum was established as Poland’s first national art-collecting institution in 1879. Until the end of World War I, it was the only large public museum in Poland. It has departments devoted to Polish painting, sculpture from the 15th century to today, decorative arts, and armour, among others. Its prized possessions include Leonardo’s Lady with an Ermine.

Emma Beatty

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