The museum ethics body, the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (Cimam), has condemned the removal of Jaroslaw Suchan from his post as director of the Łodz Museum of Art in central Poland. Suchan was reportedly ousted late last month when the ministry of culture cancelled his contract; his replacement as acting director, artist Andrzej Biernacki, was selected by Jarosław Sellin, Poland’s deputy minister of culture and national heritage.
The move was criticised by Mami Kataoka, the director of the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo and president of Cimam, in a statement, who said: “The international community is extremely concerned and confounded by this decision, given that Jaroslaw Suchan has been an outstanding museum director.” Biernacki, an artist and lecturer, runs a private gallery in Lowicz, a town between Łódź and Warsaw; according to Polish press reports, exhibitions of his work have been shown in cities such as Warsaw and Berlin.
Kataoka adds that “as the appointed interim director has no prior experience in leading public institutions and has no international profile and network, he is clearly unsuitable as a museum director”. Kataoka also appealed to the Polish culture ministry to organise a search and competition for a new director in the coming months. The ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Biernacki told the Polish news site Wyborcza: “I intend to diversify the [work on] offer, introduce other narratives. No one said that you should only deal with pro-environmental, gender or queer art that is promoted by the Western cultural institutions.” He declined to comment further.
Established in 1930, the Museum of Art in Łodz, known in Polish as Muzeum Sztuki, is dedicated to researching and displaying Polish and international avant-garde art of the 20th and 21st centuries. It is housed in three locations, ms¹, ms² and Herbst Palace Museum. Suchan oversaw a period of intense experimentation at the museum, embarking on research-heavy exhibitions, educational programmes and audience development. He told The Art Newspaper: “Of course, [the ministry of culture and the regional government] have the legal right to replace me [but] I don’t think it’s motivated by concern for the welfare of the institution.”
In December, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, led by Piotr Gliński, announced it would not be renewing the contract of Suchan who has presided over the institution since 2006. The Museum of Art in Łodz is governed by the ministry and the local regional government; the decision to cancel his tenure was made by these two governing bodies.
Cimam previously raised concerns about the Suchan row, stating in a letter dated 23 February that “one of Suchan’s most significant achievements is the international promotion of the Polish avant-garde—especially the work of Władysław Strzemiński and Katarzyna Kobro—and its introduction into the canon of Western art history through bold and innovative interpretation”.