Contemporary art in Poland and Hungary

In the research-lite spirit that characterises this column, I have amalgamated the notes from two or three recent central European trips and used them as a prompt to explore some useful online Polish and Hungarian art resources. The two countries share many things in common, including local pre-war Modernist traditions, fascinating 60s and 70s neo-avantgarde movements, and adventurous and expanding post 1989 contemporary art.



Polish art has been particularly successful in the last decade both in creative and commercial terms, with a growing number of artists of international reputation, many of whom could be seen in The Power of Fantasy: Modern and Contemporary Art from Poland, a major survey held recently at the Centre for Fine Art in Brussels. With very strong regional identities and local art scenes in cities like Krakow, Lodz, Poznan, Wroclaw, Gdansk, Katowice, Szczecin, etc., it benefits from a rich infrastructure including important regional art schools (Krakow’s ASP was established nearly a hundred years before Warsaw’s academy), a range of new and older public and commercial galleries, five contemporary art biennials: WRO Media Art Biennale (Wroklaw), International Print Triennial in Krakow, Baltic Contemporary Art Biennale (Szczecin), Lodz Biennale and Mediations Biennale (Poznan), and strong international connections (Berlin, London, etc.)


The Power of Fantasy: Modern and Contemporary Art from Poland

Academy of Fine Arts Krakow

Academy of Fine Arts Warsaw

WRO Media Art Biennale

International Print Triennial in Krakow

Baltic Contemporary Art Biennale

Lodz Biennale

Mediations Biennale


There are a number of interesting art magazines published, including OBIEG(Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle), MOCAK forum (MOCAK), Piktogram (Bureau of Loose Associations), Format P (Bęc Zmiana Foundation) and TO! Periodyk najgorszy (aka IT! The Worst Magazine Ever), an artist’s magazine presented at the recent London Art Book Fair by founder Maryna Tomaszewska, also responsible for the project and book Polish phrase book with art in the background, published by the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle. Other publishers of contemporary art books are the Bęc Zmiana Foundation, Morava Books (artists’ books publisher based in Poznan), Print Control (an online platform for books self-published by artists and graphic designers), and many of the galleries mentioned below.



MOCAK forum


Format P

TO! Periodyk najgorszy

Polish phrase book with art in the background

Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle Publications

Bęc Zmiana Foundation

Morava Books

Print Control



The Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle (Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Zamek Ujazdowski) is the better established public gallery for both International and Polish contemporary art. Located in a historical palace within a park, includes a library, an excellent restaurant that ‘serves post-modern food every day from noon until midnight’ and a useful bookshop.

A major new Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw is in project, due to open in mid 2016. Operating from temporary premises, is currently presenting the aptly named urban design festival ‘Warsaw Under Construction’.

Foksal Gallery is probably the most influential independent gallery in Poland. A focus for Conceptual art since the 1960s (with Galeria Pod Mona Lisa in Wroclaw and Galeria Akumulatory 2 in Poznan), is still a key venue for national and international avant-garde artists. The Foksal Gallery Foundation, unrelated to the gallery since 2001, runs an independent art programme and it is responsible for Edward Krasiński’s Studio, housed in a communist era apartment block and open to the public by appointment since 2007. Other independent and commercial galleries of interest include Raster, Piktogram and Leto. Where is art? An art map and listings publication currently includes details for 17 galleries around the city.


Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle

Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle Bookshop

Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

Foksal Gallery

Foksal Gallery Foundation

Edward Krasiński’s Studio




Where is art


Krakow and elsewhere

With the brand new Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow (MOCAK), the city has now got an international level venue to join the prestigious Bunkier Sztuki. Other institutions of interest include Cricoteca (established by local Tadeusz Kantor, now a documentation centre and gallery) and small commercial galleries like Galeria ZPAF i S-ka. Another museum of national and international significance is the Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz, one of the oldest modern art museums in the world (est. 1931). Also worth of note are the WRO Art Center (Wroklaw) and the LAZNIA Centre for Contemporary Art (Gdansk)


Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow

Bunkier Sztuki

Bunkier Sztuki Bookshop


Galeria ZPAF i S-ka

Muzeum Sztuki (Lodz)

Wro Art Center

LAZNIA Centre for Contemporary Art




Hungarian contemporary art is predominantly centred on Budapest (with exceptions, of course, like ICA-D at Dunaújváros and Modem at Debrecen), and issue no. 85 (Sept. 2011) of Index: places of art (only available in print…) lists more than 50 public and commercial galleries in the city.

Funded in 1896 on the German model of the kunsthalle, Műcsarnok is the main venue for major contemporary art exhibitions. Presenting 5 to 6 per year, it is currently showing ‘Sirba visztek’ an exciting if slightly disturbing journey back to the 1980s though the music and history of local art rock band A. E. Bizottság. The Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art, located in the Palace of the Arts since 2005, is the main permanent collection of Hungarian and international contemporary art, and includes works donated by the Ludwig Foundation. Other significant galleries include private art foundations (e.g. Kogart), independent and artist run foundations (e.g. Trafo, Studio Gallery), and commercial galleries (e.g. Erika Deak Gallery, Videospace Gallery).





Sirba visztek’ A. E. Bizottság

The Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art



Studio Gallery

Erika Deak Gallery

Videospace Gallery


Of course, being Hungary, there are several excellent photography museums and galleries, among those the Hungarian Museum of Photography, Hungarian House of Photography and Lumen. The Hungarian University of Fine Arts keeps an art collection and presents an interesting programme of exhibitions in its gallery spaces. Another local institution deeply connected to the artistic life of the country is Artpool Art Research Centre. Founded by artist GyörgyGalántai with Júlia Klaniczay in 1978, it is an extraordinary, living archive documenting the ‘Chapel Exhibitions’ that he had organised at Balatonboglár between 1970-1973, Hungarian and International neo-avantgarde movements, mail art and artists’ publications. It is open to researchers and artists by appointment.


Hungarian Museum of Photography

Hungarian House of Photography


Hungarian University of Fine Arts



Balkon and Műértő are the two main contemporary art magazines, both in Hungarian. The online includes weekly listings and other content in English.





[Grandal Montero, G. (2011) Resources online: Contemporary art in Poland and Hungary. ARLIS News-sheet, no. 214, Nov.-Dec., pp. 3-4.]


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