“The War Brought Us Close and the Peace Will Not Divide Us”: Exhibitions of Art from Czechoslovakia in Warsaw in the Late 1940s
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In his book Awangarda w cieniu Jałty (In the Shadow of Yalta: Art and the Avant-garde in Eastern Europe, 1945–1989), Piotr Piotrowski mentioned that Polish and Czechoslovakian artists were not working in mutual isolation and that they had opportunities to meet, for instance at the Arguments 1962 exhibition in Warsaw in 1962. The extent, nature and intensity of artistic contacts between Poland and Czechoslovakia during their coexistence within the Eastern bloc still remain valid research problems. The archives of the National Museum in Warsaw and the Zachęta – National Gallery of Art which I have investigated yield information on thirty-fi ve exhibitions of art produced in Czechoslovakia that took place in Warsaw in the period of the People’s Republic of Poland. The current essay focuses on exhibitions organised in the late 1940s. The issue of offi cial cultural cooperation between Poland and Czechoslovakia was regulated as early as in the fi rst years after the war. Institutions intended to promote the culture of one country in the other one and associations for international cooperation were established soon after. As early as in 1946, the National Museum in Warsaw hosted an exhibition entitled Czechoslovakia 1939–1945. In 1947 the same museum showed Contemporary Czechoslovakian Graphic Art. A few months after “Victorious February”, i.e. the coup d’état carried out by the Communists in Czechoslovakia in early 1948, the Young Czechoslovakian Art exhibition opened at the Young Artists and Scientists’ Club, a Warsaw gallery supervised by Marian Bogusz. It showed the works of leading artists of the post-war avant-garde, and their authors were invited to the vernissage. Nine artists participated in both exhibitions, i.e. at the National Museum and at the Young Artists and Scientists’ Club. A critical analysis of art produced in one country of the Eastern bloc as exhibited in another country of that bloc enables an art historian to outline a section of the complex history of artistic life. Archival research yields new valuable materials that make it impossible to reduce the narration to a simple opposition contrasting the avant-garde with offi cial institutions.
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