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2016 | 26 | 277-290

Article title

Looking Back at Looking Forward: Art Exhibitions in Poland for the 1975 AICA Congress


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The above text examines the 11th Congress of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) organised in the People’s Republic of Poland in September of 1975 upon the initiative of Professor Juliusz Starzyński, who was the head of the organisation’s Polish Section. The congress, whose offi cial theme was “Art – Science – Technology as Elements of the Development of our Epoch”, marked the second AICA event in history to be held in Poland, and while Starzyński himself did not live to see the result of his efforts, the intent to commission a number of collateral exhibitions across the country – meant to serve as surveys of Polish art – was successful. Those attending the congress had the occasion to visit the cities of Cracow, Łódź, Warsaw, and Wrocław. The text takes a closer look at two of these exhibitions: Voir et Conçevoir (Widzieć i rozumieć) which was developed for Cracow’s historic Cloth Hall, a part of the city’s National Museum, by Mieczysław Porębski in collaboration with Andrzej Pawłowski, and the exhibition that came to be known as Critics’ Picks (Krytycy sztuki proponują), which was held at the Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions, known as the Zachęta, in Warsaw. The concept of each, it is argued, was driven by a need for experiment. While the former exhibition came to be remembered as an innovative, if not radical, way of engaging the permanent museum display in which the highlights of Polish 19th-century art were juxtaposed with several new commissions by contemporary artists, the latter – the result of no less an experimental concept in which a group presentation was based on a survey conducted among local critics – remains largely forgotten – the upshot of a series of compromises, largely enforced by the political situation of the time. Exploring Voir et Conçevoir and Critics’ Picks as exhibitions in state institutions within the context of an international event, the paper seeks to shed light on the intersection of offi cial artistic practices and politics in the People’s Republic of Poland in the mid-1970s in an attempt to identify the key agents that were active in the fi eld as well as the defi ning conditions of their activity – or, in other words, to ask the question as to what kind of offi cial statements were made possible at the time and how they were motivated.







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