Terribly Close: Polish Vernacular Artists Face the Holocaust


Terribly Close: Polish Vernacular Artists Face the Holocaust introduces forgotten works by some of Poland’s best known "folk" artists from the postwar People’s Republic of Poland, discovered in Polish and German ethnographic museums and private collections.


Władysław Chajec’s "Nazis" (1967), Adam Zegadło’s "Shared Fate" (1969), Wacław Czerwiński’s "The Last Embrace" (1983), Zygmunt Skrętowicz’s "Auschwitz" series (1963) and over twenty additional works tell about the Holocaust as seen from up close, from a “bystander’s” perspective. Some obscure the specifically Jewish character of the genocide, framing it instead as Catholic Polish martyrology or a universal human tragedy.


These objects are complex documents born of various impulses: their creators are artists, but also collectors, ethnographers, curators, ideologues. The oldest example is a painting from (ca.) 1948 by Sławomir Kosiniak from Zalipie, a village famous for its decorative floral motifs. Recently discovered in the archives of the Kraków Ethnographic Museum, it presents the round-up of local Jews. The most recent work is "Jedwabne" by Jan Kowalczyk, commissioned by a German collector in 2017.

Photographer Wojciech Wilczyk’s series Blow-ups (2016-2018) searches the faces of the victims, perpetrators, and bystanders depicted. Wilczyk brings our gazes in line with those of their makers, in dialogue with the original artworks.

Curators Erica Lehrer, Roma Sendyka, Wojciech Wilczyk, and Magdalena Zych raise key questions: How did these works come about? Who made them, and why? Who bought, commissioned, and collected such scenes? Were they exhibited? For which audience?    

What do they actually depict? How should we look at them today?


Can we treat them as witnesses to murder?

The project is part of the research project Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritages with the Arts: From Intervention to Co-Production: TRACES (2016-2019). Implemented as part of the European Commission Horizon 2020 Reflective Society program, its purpose is to interpret contentious heritage. The experimental research carried out by the TRACES team involves building multilateral collaborations among the academy, museums, and artists.

Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Tickets: 9 zł (regular), 6 zł (discounted)

Visiting the exhibit is not recommended for children under the age of 14.

Contact information for journalists:
Ludmiła Maruszewska / maruszewska@etnomuzeum.eu
Tel. 012 55 75, ext. 53. Mobile: 507 946 675







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