Gallery of the 19th-century Polish Art in Sukiennice

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An elegant entrance hall, lift blending discreetly into the antique stairway, a media library, a friendly lecture hall for children, terraces with splendid views over the Main Market Square, a cafe, but above all over 200 artworks presented in a contemporary and attractive manner.

In September 2010 the Gallery of the 19th-century Polish Art has returned to the Main Market Square after a four-year absence due to renovation. At first glance it looks the same, and yet everything’s different. The Museum has been able to obtain new rooms in previously unused spaces under the pitched roofs, which now host meetings, lectures and children’s activities. It also introduced “artomats” with touch-sensitive screens allowing the visitors to learn about Sukiennice’s history, collections and artists, as well as letting them play games and quizzes.

But of course the most important part of the gallery is... the Gallery. The current arrangement is closer to the original 19th-century look. The walls have been returned to their original colours, and there are velour sofas and palm trees. And yet it’s now a 21st-century museum equipped with air conditioning and lamps emitting artificial light that’s harmless to artworks. The exhibition has a new scenario; the rooms are the same, but they now have new names. The 1000 m.sq. holds 195 paintings and 19 sculptures. Jan Matejko’s Hołd Pruski (Prussian Tribute) remains in Wawel, but it has been replaced with Rejtan instead, on loan from the National Museum in Warsaw. The central space in the largest room (previously occupied by Hołd Pruski) is now given to the painting which initiated the history of Poland’s first national art gallery – Henryk Siemiradzki’s Pochodnie Nerona (Nero’s Torches). The artist donated it to the city in 1879 following J.I. Kraszewski’s jubilee at the newly-restored Sukiennice, with the intention of placing it in the future national gallery collection. Several days later Kraków’s City Municipality decided to create a National Museum at Sukiennice.

Over 130 years later, an act of a symbolic renovation of the National Museum in Krakow was signed on 24 July 2010 and placed in a silver globe on top of Sukiennice. Sukiennice really is as new.

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