The beginnings of the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art date back to 1949 and the decision to establish the Kraków Branch of the Central Bureau for Art Exhibitions, which, from 1962, already operated as an independent institution: the Bureau for Art Exhibitions (commonly abbreviated as BWA in Polish).

Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art, phot. Daniel Zawadzki, from artist's archive, © all rights reserved


The Kraków BWA, devoted to the presentation of the latest artistic phenomena, has been housed in the exhibition pavilion designed by Krystyna Tołłoczko-Różyska since 1965 and has become a lively meeting place for the art community and the host of cyclical editions of the International Biennale of Graphics, Kraków Encounters, and the Sculpture of the Year. The history of the gallery, along with the subsequent remodelling of its mission and objectives, reflect the more general and broader processes of systemic, social, and artistic transformations, including the understanding of their public dimension.

This tradition of researching the present and asking questions about its condition has accompanied the gallery over recent decades, defining also today the direction of the artistic programme of the institution. Through various forms of activities – exhibitions, seminars, film programs, workshops, conferences – we treat contemporary art as a tool of work on our imagination, its special igniter launching stories about relations between different countries and cultures, thanks to which it is possible to find common elements in geographically distant regions. Especially – in the global world of migrating signs and symbols – it is contemporary art that provides a space for translating current experiences and articulating the condition of current affairs.

Elaborated by Magdalena Ziółkowska PhD (Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art),
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

The Collection of Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art

Paintings. Interactive installations. Objects. Visual spectacles and performances. Video films.

The collection of Bunkier Sztuki Gallery currently consists of almost 400 works by several dozen Polish and foreign, female and male artists – both artists recognized on the international scene, as well as representatives of the younger generation.

The genesis of the gallery’s collection dates back to its functioning as the Bureau for Art Exhibitions (since 1962) and post-exhibition purchase of works by the Department of Culture of the National Council in Kraków, which was undertaken to create sets of works representing the local artistic scene in its subordinate units. Most of the collections accumulated during the time of socialism were sold at auction in 1993, and the development of the collection itself was suspended for several years. With the beginning of the 21st century, the rebuilding of the gallery's collections began, this time with the aim of creating a kind of “memory of the institution” through them. It is intended to document the traces of the current exhibitions in the Bunkier space.

The breakthrough came in 2012, when a new stage in the development of the collection commenced. It was guided by the slogan of the dematerialization of works of art, understood – following Lucy Lippard’s stance – as replacing a material work with its concept and idea. In the Bunker Sztuki collection, this assumption is realized in two ways. On the one hand, dematerialization is understood in relation to the very form of works, especially those of elusive and ephemeral construction – that is, those whose matter vanishes or dissolves over time – or those occurring only in the course of a certain event, when the most important executive element is temporary and unique. The concept of dematerialization also corresponds to a situation in which the material, visual layer is merely an incentive to construe the proper form of the work through imagination. On the other hand, dematerialization suggests the intangible nature of the manifestations of art: ideas and relationships co-created by the artist and recipients, the shift of emphasis from the work understood as a material object to the relationships developed between the subjects.

The result of activities, based on these kinds of assumptions, is the construction and development of extraordinary collections, which consist not only of artistic artefacts, but also of concepts and interactions. It is a collection of works of art and a collection of experiences.

Elaborated by Anna Lebensztejn PhD, (Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art),
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.



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Jadwiga Sawicka, “Kills Again”

One of the themes of Jadwiga Sawicka’s works are words and phrases almost literally taken out of context, from newspapers, commercials, or electronic media. At the beginning of her activity, the artist juxtaposed them with images of everyday objects on the same canvas: presented clothing items with a limited range of colours and cosmetics were accompanied by fragments of advertising slogans, newspaper extracts, titles, and summaries of TV series.

Konrad Smoleński, “How to Make a Bomb”

Music, punk culture, and art are among the interests of Konrad Smoleński, in which the experience of sound occupies a special place. The audio-performances implemented by him, jointly with Daniel Szwed, take the form of an anarchic bombardment of intense sound. The attack is carried out by BNNT: masked artists arriving in a black van whose image is associated with terrorists.

Lidia Krawczyk, Wojciech Kubiak, from the series “Genderqueer: M.”

The project Genderqueer was implemented by Lidia Krawczyk and Wojciech Kubiak in the period 2006–2008. The first comprehensive presentation of a series of paintings, photographs, films, and sculptures was the exhibition, Becoming, in Bunkier Sztuki Gallery (2008), which, at the same time, was the crowning touch for all the activities related to it. The themes of the exhibition focused on the topic of the constant need to declare one’s identity and sexuality. The subject of interest to the artists was an attempt to show the ambiguity of the relations formed between what is feminine and masculine. People who expressed their willingness to share their experiences, related to expressing their own gender identity that deviates from socially expected conventions and the traditional division of gender roles, have become the protagonists of images and photography.

Bartosz Kokosiński, “Picture devouring a landscape painting”

Taking up the fight with the two-dimensionality of the painter’s medium, Bartosz Kokosiński inflates the structure of the canvases with foam, deforms them, and radically bends their stretched frames. He deconstructs the painting as an artistic medium. In his most famous series – paintings devouring reality (2010–2015) – the canvases have been transformed into expanded objects, drawing in collections of various things, found by Kokosiński at flea markets, attics, and in the studios of befriended artists.

Hubert Gromny, Xavery Wolski, “Crystal Skulls Are Modern Fakes? Adventure Movie”

Historical conspiracy theories – the Muhlenberg legend, spectral time hypothesis, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – have occupied the minds of a large group of scholars and lovers of the past for centuries, being also one of the most controversial and, at the same time, interesting elements of contemporary culture. For Hubert Gromny and Xavery Wolski, they became an inspiration to create the installation Crystal skulls are modern fakes? Adventure Movie. Starting from the eclectic nature of conspiracy theories, drawing randomly from historical science, pop culture, and futurology, the creators tested their typical determinants and created a new conspiracy narrative. It questions the official theories referring to the origins of the Slavic peoples. In this attempt to mediate conspiracy theories, the artists created the character of Janusz “Johnny” Bzibziak PhD – a Polish Indiana Jones – associated with the Archaeological Museum of Kraków. The protagonist is a specialist in the field of research on nomadic peoples and a proponent of a theory postulating links between the ancestors of Slavs, Cimmerians, and Scythians.

Jadwiga Sawicka, “Batman”

In Jadwiga Sawicka’s works, individual objects and phenomena appear belonging to everyday life, as well as words and phrases taken out of context, from newspapers, commercials or electronic media. Items of clothing, such as a shirt, trousers, skirt, gloves, and a jacket assume the painted form of a simplified, monochromatic image of clothing, having no particular features; they become more concrete while being photographed. In a series of photos from 1997, presenting casual clothing separately, they are captured on a uniform background of plastic foil and artificial leather: a leather coat, a colourful dress, a suit, trousers, a bathing suit.

Yane Calovski, “Something laid over something else”

“The installation consists of separate elements, shaped more on the basis of context-specific particles of the work than its uniform form. I try to understand that the museum is a social and political construct with a powerful, extremely problematic load of meanings. It constitutes a physical manifestation of power, in the face of which we can only try to multiply its meaning, reciprocity, paradox and pluralism. Therefore, my work aims to respond to the dynamics and cosmogony of multiplicity of knowledge – be it historical, material or functional – but also to the sets of materializations that draw a portrait of space as a process played in an architectural framework.” In this way, Yane Calovski describes the conceptual assumptions of his installation. Its structurally diverse layers refer to the process of destroying the properties that characterize a given matter: erasing, removing, decolouring, and corrosion. In a wider perspective, they address the issue of the evanescence of memory and physical presence, materiality and abstraction.

Elżbieta Jabłońska, “Helping”

The works of Elżbieta Jabłońska are situated in the sphere of engaged art, commenting on cultural and social clichés. A number of her projects are related to the reinterpretation of the role of women in society, expressed at the same time with irony and fondness. In one of her most-famous works — Supermatka [Supermother], from 2002 – the artist recalls the figure of a woman-superhero, impersonating the characters of Batman, Superman, and Spiderman in a kitchen interior. Her everyday activities become the domain of her heroic activity, usually overlooked and taken for granted. Jabłońska’s activities also include a number of initiatives intended for people who need help. To initiate one of the actions, she was inspired by a job advert found in Łódź, stuck on the wall by a single mother with a child, in a difficult life situation. The artist failed to find the author of the appeal; however, another unemployed woman embroidered the content of the advert into a tapestry and was paid for it with the money from Jabłońska’s fee, (from the cycle Helping), in the exhibition, Kobieta ma duszę [The Woman has a soul], Manhattan Gallery, Łódź, (2003). In subsequent years, Jabłońska began to include other social groups in her actions, in particular, excluded and marginalized people.

Jakub Woynarowski, “Outopos”

Outopos is an interactive diagram, that works only in the form of a website. Its hypertext structure is based on a series of graphics, text, and animation. In its design, the diagram is a conceptual grid, which creates a variable, visual essay, on the subject of utopia as the perfect non-existent place, “non-place” (outopos). The virtual space, where the work is located, is particularly suited to contemporary reflection on the topic of utopia, fitting into the framework of the construction of the new world.

Janek Simon, “Ryugyong Hotel”

Janek Simon’s interests include theories and models as well as scientific disciplines, such as geography and economics, which are subject to evolution along with civilizational changes. His works have an experimental and anarchic character, reflecting the clash of scientific theories with the reality of everyday life. His works are prototypes, models, and complicated electronic systems, created according to the principle Do It Yourself by the artists himself. He incessantly seeks extra-systemic solutions, which allow him to break away from contemporary art of a capitalist character.

Karol Radziszewski, “Study for the Wounded Insurgent”

Karol Radziszewski’s work consists of six photographs and a drawing made on their basis. The cycle is considered a preparatory study for the mural, which was to be created in 2009 at the Mur Sztuki Gallery, located in the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising. However, the work did not come to fruition, because it was considered too erotic and detrimental to the feelings of the museum’s public.

Karolina Kowalska, “A window onto the winter”

The motifs of urban everyday life as an illusory sign of economic prosperity prevail in Karolina Kowalska’s works. Streets, blocks of flats, and office buildings appear next to intimate apartment interiors and impersonal infrastructure. The architectural and media indicators of capitalism determine the area of human activity, rendering the world of nature a luxurious addition. The artist manipulates their images, pushing them into everyday realities and, with a hint of irony, transforming them. Thus, her photographs, films, installations, and objects reveal in a nuanced, jocular manner, the influence of urban cityscape on individuals and relationships and propose slightly improved variants. The projects realized by the artists combine music, visual art, and text at times.

Little Warsaw, “Yellow House”

As part of the project implemented in the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery, the Little Warsaw collective initiated a two-day public situation held inside the Gallery. For the performance, Gálik and Havas invited a group of over a dozen previously selected participants, with whom they commenced an artistic and research process. The latter referred to the titular Yellow House, which was the name locally assigned to the Lipótmező hospital, founded in 1868 in Budapest.

Łukasz Jastrubczak, “Need for Speed”

Łukasz Jastrubczak’s Need for Speed is the artist’s journey following the trail of forms and symbols that transformed the natural landscape into the subject of reflection and culture. Already, the first frames of the film evoke recognizable themes of cinematography and art history, arranging them into a mysterious sequence. The filming scene begins with the image of a blue mountain, which, in the artistic interpretations of a number of artists – including the most famous version by Jan Domela from the 1950s – became a characteristic logo of Paramount Pictures, ceremonially announcing many of the classic Hollywood movie titles.

Maciej Chorąży, “Flashback Smurfs”

Maciej Chorąży’s work, Flashback Smurfs, contains an attempt to mirror perceiving the world from a child’s perspective and light criticism of consumer culture, which gives mass production objects symbolic meaning – sometimes even magical – always according to the standard algorithm of promoted values (such as beauty, youth, attractiveness, usefulness, and effectiveness). In realizing both these artistic assumptions, the ordinary object acquired from everyday surroundings play a central role.

Małgorzata Markiewicz, “Counting-Out Games”

Her work, Wyliczanki (Counting-out Games), consists of three objects – costumes. Each consists of a skirt and a braid. Wide, embroidered skirts, with a circular pattern, inspired by Polish folklore, refer to the character and colours of festive folk costumes. They are made of combined, contrasting materials, with sewn-on patterns of contemporary silhouettes, which the artist juxtaposed with embroidered texts known from children’s plays or songs, such as: Moja Ulijanko, klęknij na kolanko [Little Ula, take a knee], Mam chusteczkę haftowaną [I’ve got an embroidered hankie], Chodzi lisek koło drogi [There’s a little fox strolling along the road side]. The colourful braids, made of old clothes, are long and thick, and therefore also heavy and uncomfortable to wear. The artist called them “cultural braids”, thus suggesting that they function as something artificial, attached.

Marcin Maciejowski, “The Doctor Said…”

The works by Marcin Maciejowski reveal interest in the present and everyday life of a human being. His pictorial commentaries on reality are the result of insightful and multifaceted observation of Polish society. The artist analyses customs, explores stereotypes and cultural patterns. He deals with media topics, presenting figures known from the first pages of newspapers (politicians, journalists, celebrities), topics of sensational events, as well as social and economic problems. He devotes much attention to the social reception of art and the role of the artist.

Maurycy Gomulicki, “Beast”

In traditional culture, serpents represent a threatening and powerful symbol of the primal cosmic forces; they are representatives of chaos and death. They were often also the object of worship: for ancient Egyptians they symbolized the power of wielding life and death, decorating the crown of the pharaohs; the Greeks considered them to be the embodiment of the chthonic gods, and because of their annual skin moulting, they added them as an attribute to Asclepios, as a symbol of life, health, and rebirth. The Romans bred snakes in their homes, seeing them as the guardians of their home and family; The Aztecs made a feathered serpent — Quetzalcoatl — a co-creator of the world, the god of wind and earth. The primal cult of serpents also flourished in regions closer to us: for example, in the Krakowiak tribe from the right bank of the Wisła. The Judeo-Christian culture judged serpents rather negatively: in the story of Adam and Eve, they became cursed creatures; the Old Testament God sent them as a punishment to the Israelites, and then, through Moses, sent a serpent to their rescue, but one made of copper.

Michał Jelski, “D.G./D.Y.60s0-0-0.4s”

The photographic work of Michał Jelski, DG/D.Y.60s0-0-0.4s, is an unusual record of issues focusing on conflict. Its sphere of presentation – patches of colour – whose smooth transitions are disturbed by a distinctive streak, primarily refers to the manipulation of materials applied on the surface of the artistic medium used. The photogram technique used by the artist involves irradiation of photo paper without the use of special devices designed for this purpose, such as a camera. The image is created here is the result of obscuring the photosensitive material with semi-transparent or opaque objects (in such a case, we talk about the technique of luxography).

Monika Drożyńska “In-Between Words”

For Monika Drożyńska, embroidery – a technique of centuries-old tradition, which is nowadays regarded as a less typical medium of art – is a form of meditation. The artist’s activity in this field is part of the language of women’s art, which is close to crafts such as sewing, embroidering, and crocheting. Her work, Between words, using the embroidery technique, was implemented by the artist as part of her individual exhibition, After the word, which took place at the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery in 2011.