Museum exhibitions

Fangor. Beyond the Image

  • Dates October 22, 2022—March 12, 2023
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  • Miejsce Muzeum Narodowe w Gdańsku – Oddział Sztuki Nowoczesnej w Gdańsku

The exhibition “Fangor Beyond the Image” presents Fangor’s well-known oeuvre anew – in the light of careful and deep retrospection. The exhibition features more than 100 paintings and 90 drawings, posters and sculptures from all periods of the artist’s career. Thanks to the collaboration with the FANGOR Foundation, it also includes works that are little known or never shown.

It would seem that a hundred years after the artist’s birth and about seven decades of his intense work, the oeuvre of Wojciech Fangor is already well recognized. The more so because in the last two decades, he has had several large retrospective exhibitions in Poland. So what can the exhibition at the National Museum in Gdańsk bring to the understanding of his work?

We propose to look at the well-known works of Fangor (abstract paintings from the 1950s, 60s and 70s) anew in the light of a careful and profound retrospection. The earliest works of the artist and those from the first decades of his work, often less known, from the late 1930s and World War II, when as a young boy he began to learn drawing and painting, through the post-war and socialist realist period, to his radical break with figurativeness and a Study of Space from 1958, are examined closely. Archival materials (newsreels, private photos, interviews with the artist) will be an important part of the exhibition, putting the works in a historical and biographical context. And context seems to be crucial for the narrative of the exhibition and a better understanding of Fangor’s work: the artist’s interest in astronomy from an early age and throughout his life, the experiences of World War II, being miraculously saved from the firing squad, the Stalinist regime that imprisoned the painter’s father with a death sentence, emigration for several decades in 1961. Works such as The Execution (1948), The Scream, The Trial or The Palace of Culture (created in his socialist realist period but critical of the regime), or the gesture of a radical break with figurative painting after the 1956 political thaw in Poland to switch to optical experiments with two-dimensionality, all allow us to interpret Fangor’s works anew.

Fangor is best known to the public for his abstract period. In this light, this period of his artistic development may be much more than a highly successful intellectual painting experiment that brought him worldwide fame. It can, for example, reveal its hidden connections with the artist’s astronomical interests or reveal itself to us as a kind of post-1956 „Polish thaw” reaction to the „steamroller of history” or a form of escape almost coinciding in time with his emigration. In this context, his most famous abstractions from the 1960s begin to lose their formalistic innocence. Thanks to our collaboration with the Wojciech Fangor Foundation, our exhibition also includes works that are little known or even never shown but are essential for a fuller understanding of the artist’s oeuvre.

The exhibition will present over 100 paintings and 90 drawings, posters and sculptures from all the periods of Wojciech Fangor’s work.