Kobro and Strzemiński: Łódź – Warsaw – Paris (1956–1957)
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From December 1956 to December 1957, no fewer than four exhibitions presenting the oeuvre of Katarzyna Kobro and Władysław Strzemiński were organised: the Posthumous Exhibition of Władysław Strzemiński’s and Katarzyna Kobro’s Oeuvre, shown fi rst in Łódź (16 December 1956 – 14 January 1957) and then in Warsaw (18 January – 10 February 1957), and two exhibitions in Paris: 50 ans de peinture abstraite at Galerie Raymond Creuze (9 May – 12 June 1957) and Précurseurs de l’art abstrait en Pologne: Malewicz, Kobro, Strzemiński, Berlewi, Stażewski at Galerie Denise René (22 November 1957 – 10 January 1958). All received a strong response, both in Poland and abroad. Research focused on these exhibitions has brought some surprising results. None of them had been planned until 1956, and only after the events of October 1956 was it possible to show the works of Kobro and Strzemiński in Warsaw in 1957. The exhibition at the Łódź Division of the Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions was prepared with exceptional care and is immensely important, as it occasioned the fi rst attempt at preparing a catalogue of both Kobro’s and Strzemiński’s works, of Strzemiński’s biography and a bibliography of texts authored by Strzemiński and Kobro. In addition, it was there that Strzemiński’s treatise Teoria widzenia fi rst came to public attention; it was published only two years later. The exhibition was transferred, quite unexpectedly, to the Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions in Warsaw, which was the chief institution involved in exhibiting modern art in Poland; this gave offi cial sanction and a considerable status to the oeuvre of both avant-garde artists. The exhibition entitled Précurseurs de l’art abstrait en Pologne became, paradoxically, the fi rst-ever offi cial exhibition of Polish avant-garde art to be held abroad and organised by a state agency, i.e. the Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions, under the aegis of the ambassador of the People’s Republic of Poland in France. It was also the only exhibition in which Kazimierz Malewicz was regarded as a Pole and presented as belonging to the history of art in Poland; the mission initiated by Strzemiński in 1922 was thus completed. The institutions involved in arranging the loans of Malewicz’s works for this exhibition were the Ministry of Culture and Art, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its subordinate Polish embassies in Paris and Moscow. This was the fi rst time that the works of Kazimierz Malewicz were presented in the West, thanks to the efforts and under the aegis of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the period of the post-Stalinist thaw; notably, this happened before their presentation at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (29 December 1957).
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