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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Zorka Wollny, untitled

Zorka Wollny’s work situates itself between theatre, dance, music and visual arts. Her achievements include video films – distinguishing themselves with a pictorial vision – concerts and choreographic performances involving numerous actors (often realized together with Anna Szwajgier). In projects that refer to the form of an audiovisual show, the artist plays the role of director and producer, inviting musicians, actors, and dancers to cooperate, working with members of local communities, amateur clubs, and groups that share common interests. The essential element of her projects is space: works are created as a result of observing the existing conditions created by the architecture of the place, as well as penetrating its private, public, and institutional aspects.

Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries, bez tytułu (Aneta. Monument for Kraków)

Aneta. Monument to Kraków – this is an example of a work related to the current of internet art and concrete poetry. The Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries duo, who are responsible for its creation, consistently uses one visual form in its creative work. It consists of words animated and displayed on a white background, in a characteristic font. In subsequent works, only the rhythm in which words appear on the screen changes, and the content of words that become a visual poem. The texts are read by a lector or are synchronized with accompanying jazz music. In the case of work carried out for the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery, we deal with a record without a musical background. We only hear the voice that reads the words – alternately in Polish (by the poet and slammer Jan Kowalewicz) and English (by a member of Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries – Marc Voge).

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.

Wojciech Gilewicz, “Revitalisations”

The project, Revitalisations, was implemented Wojciech Gilewicz in Sanok in 2007. The long-term marginalization of the city and its exclusion from comprehensive modernization projects prompted the artist to undertake his own, non-standard intervention, using the illusionistic potential of painting. The intention of the action was to repair the visual deficiencies of the urban fabric, to supplement its defects with the help of images, and by doing so, lead at least its temporary and provisional revitalization. During the artist’s several-week work in the public space of Sanok, pictorial mock-ups of reality covered the progressing degradation and neglect of buildings and streets. They replaced missing tiles of wall claddings, hid glaring dirt and lichen on elevations, filled plaster gaps, fitting perfectly into their shape.

Wojciech Doroszuk, “Reisefieber”

A project by Wojciech Doroszuk called Reisefieber concerns the problem of economic migration. During his stay in Berlin, the artist played the role of a newcomer from the East and was employed in the service sectors which are usually entrusted to emigrants. Based on his experience, five films and photography have been created, that form a multi-layered story of everyday, ordinary life in a foreign country, including both paid work and leisure activities, for example, participation in mass events organized in the city space. In each situation, the hero is shown as a stereotypical stranger, deprived of the will and the possibility of joining indigenous members of the community.

Wilhelm Sasnal, untitled

Wilhelm Sasnal’s painting depicts, in a one-to-one scale, a 43-cm metal object, which comes from the hull of the continental aircraft which caused the crash of the Air France Concorde in 2000. Presented for the first time at the exhibition, Scene 2000, at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, the picture is part of a series of canvases of the artist, connected with the subject of disasters and accidents. A few of them refer directly to the events related to the Concorde: apart from the two paintings belonging to the collection of the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery, the canvas is also divided into nine sections presenting the individual stages of the plane’s explosion.

Wilhelm Sasnal, untitled

The picture of Wilhelm Sasnal presents a view of the burning Concorde aircraft. The artist recreated the frame from an amateur film made from a car window, which was the only video recording of the disaster at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris in 2000. Presented for the first time at the exhibition, Scene 2000, at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, the picture is part of a series of canvases by this artist connected with the subject of disasters and accidents. Despite the fact that Sasnal created a few pictures concerning the subject of the Concorde catastrophe (shown in the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery at the exhibition POPelita), each of them should be perceived as a separate work, and not a specific work cycle. Sasnal’s deep fascination with recordings showing the course of the catastrophe may indicate the artist’s desire to reach the “truth”, to spot what was hidden under the layer of words, descriptions, and interpretations. This pursuit is driven by the awareness of the impossibility of achieving the goal.

Wael Shawky, “Digital Church”

In the film Digital Church Wael Shawky tries to connect two worlds, the Christian and the Islamic, by staging the surah devoted to the life of Mary, mother of Jesus, recorded in the holy book of Muslims, in the space of the Catholic church. The artist uses the sung recitation of verses, which is traditional for the Islamic world, using the Arabic language, until recently recognized as the only language in which the text of the Quran has a prayer value. Although the recited surah refers to events well-known to Christian believers, the form of its conveyance is strange and confusing to them, and may even – due to the choice of the place of recitation – be perceived as blasphemous.

Vlatka Horvat, “Balance Beam #0715”

The physical sense of space, things being material and, at the same time, cultural objects, physical presence and what it leaves behind are the key motifs of Vlatka Horvat’s works. Drawing dynamics from the performing arts area, the author weaves these kinds of motifs into her artistic activities, and also those that use the medium of drawing, collage, sculpture, or installation. In her works, the main actor disappears, and cannot be observed in the creative process, but there remains a trace of their action.

Tomasz Dobiszewski, from the series “Anecdotes”

The area of Tomasz Dobiszewski’s exploration is time and space, constraints of perception, illusion and interaction issues. In his works, which testify to the processes of taming the media, he does not limit himself to purely conceptual cognitive strategies but enriches the discourse with non-intellectual elements: sensual impressions and intuitive cognition. He combines messages which are legible to various human senses, and, while experimenting with the physiology of seeing or hearing, on the one hand he aims at fuller, more complete transfer, while on the other, he deprives the viewer of the possibility to learn about the essence of his work.

Tomasz Baran, untitled

The works made by Tomasz Baran seem to challenge the famous phrase emancipating the picture as an independent formal unit – they are a challenge to the flatness of the image and the order of colours that Denis recognized as one of the key properties. In his work, Baran analyses the issues of surface and colour, which are some of the basic elements building the form of the painting. By contradicting the traditional flatness of pictures, he brings painting closer to three-dimensional objects, he bends the loom, modifies the way it is attached to the canvas, trims painting edges in an irregular way, and creates spatial organisms by using them. In the work held in the Bunkier Sztuki collection, a sub-frame was created in a non-standard manner, which – apart from the place where canvas is stretched on a rectangular frame – was attached to two additional diagonally extending slats and to a cardboard layer covering the reverse of the painting, the elements inaccessible to the viewer’s eye. The outcome of this process is an uneven, spatial structure, consisting of convex and concave spots, usually absent from a smooth canvas plane.

Strupek Group, “Rocket”

The starting point for the performance Rocket, was the text of a futuristic poem by Anatol Stern, Europe, published in 1929. It was processed by the members of the Strupek Group, using a modern internet tool — Google translate — to obtain an absurd, mechanized form of language. However, what survived is the essence of the original poem and its embedded story of the brutality of the 20th century history, the traps of totalitarianism, and the triumph of violence, whose horror was highlighted by ghostly sounds extracted from a theremin (an electroacoustic musical instrument constructed in the 1920s by a Soviet physicist Lev Termen). The oppressiveness of the situation increased the audience’s involvement in the space of the show itself and confronted them with characters shouting out consecutive lines: Priest, Altar Boy, Mother, Rocket, and the Sacrificial Lamb, conducting the action. The play, which was recreated three times, was an adequate conclusion of the public activity of the Strupek Group — from then on, the fates of its members were to go down their individual paths.

Rafani, untitled (“On Invisible”)

The performance On Invisible by the Czech collective Rafani, was staged simultaneously in one of the exhibition halls of the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery and in the urban space. In the gallery spaces, it was witnessed by people who intentionally arrived at the event; these witnesses, however, met only the lecturer, a poet from Kraków, and the slammer, Jan Paweł Kowalewicz (a.k.a. Roman Boryczko), connected using the telephone conference method with five performers.

Piotr Lutyński, “Bird column”

The work The Bird Column was created in 2003 in the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery and functioned as an exhibition in the process. The titular Bird Column, called by Lutyński “an animated sculpture” and “a large nest full of birds”, took the form of an installation: it was a developed construction, inside which there were paintings and objects made of wood and the birds, whose singing was heard throughout the Gallery from microphones placed nearby. In the next room, there was a goat with its kids. The whole exhibition was accompanied by texts referring to the teachings of St Francis of Assisi, the patron of animals, ornithologists, and bird breeders.

Nicolas Grospierre, “The House Which Grows”

The project by Nicolas Grospierre, The house which grows, tackles the problem of the gap between aesthetics and the functionality of architecture. In his work, the artist is interested in forms of modernist architecture and in how the very possibility of establishing universal public housing led to the fall of this utopian project.

Monika Niwelińska, “Lighting”

Doświetlanie [Illuminating], by Monika Niwelińska, was inspired by the system of natural lighting of the first floor at the BWA Exhibition Pavilion in Kraków – today’s Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art. The artist made an analysis of the specific history and topography of the place in the form of an installation, which was once lit up by sun rays coming through the skylights in the ceiling, and it underwent a transformation in the early years of the institution’s operation due to architectural interference. An intriguing architectural solution, which was planned in the 1960s by the Gallery’s architect, Krystyna Tołłoczko-Różyska, turned out to be utopian. The roof began to leak quickly.

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.

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).

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.

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.