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Poland’s right-wing government dismisses director of leading contemporary art museum in latest blow to cultural scene

Over 1,000 leading Polish arts figures have signed a letter in defence of the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw's head Hanna Wróblewska

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Hanna Wróblewska, the director of the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw (left) and Piotr Glínski (right) Photo: Jacek Łagowski

Hanna Wróblewska, the director of the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw (left) and Piotr Glínski (right) Photo: Jacek Łagowski

More than 1,000 Polish art professionals have signed an open letter protesting the government’s decision to terminate the contract of Hanna Wróblewska, the director of the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw which specialises in contemporary art.

According to the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, the culture minister Piotr Glínski informed the gallery on 5 July that Wróblewska’s contract would not be extended beyond next year. The move prompted two prominent former directors of the gallery, Anda Rottenberg and Agnieszka Morawińska, to sign the protest letter (neither had responded to a request for comment by time of publication).

“Artists, critics and cultural figures suggest that there are political reasons for getting rid of Wróblewska,” adds Gazeta Wyborcza, reflecting the hardline stance of the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS), which won a new mandate by a narrow margin in Poland’s last general election in October 2019.

The letter argues that Wróblewska, who has been running Zacheta since 2010, is at the "height of her potential" and describes the museum's programme under her tenure as "diverse, interesting and often revelatory". It continues that there are "no substantive reasons" for her dismissal and urges Glínski "to consider several arguments in favour of leaving Wróblewska in this position".

Among its signatories are the artists Paweł Althamer, Mirosław Bałka, Joanna Rajkowska; the writers Anna Bikont and Artur Domosławski; and the film directors Krzysztof Skonieczny, Wojciech Smarzowski.

Last year, President Andrzej Duda and state media doubled down on branding LGBTQ rights an “ideology worse than communism”, going so far as to propose a new “Family Charter” that would block any legislation allowing gay couples to get married or adopt children.

Zacheta's website describes the gallery as “an institution whose mission is to popularise contemporary art as an important element of socio-cultural life. A place where the most interesting phenomena of 20th and 21st century art are presented”. The Polish Ministry of Culture did not respond to a request for comment.

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