New Beginnings

5 February 2021

Sadly, 2020 will be remembered for closed museums – so here’s hoping that the new year abounds with new openings! And Kraków’s museums have been busy!

Krzysztofory Palace
Shrouded in legend (it was once home to Pan Twardowski, and the Lady in Black is said to haunt its rooms…), the Krzysztofory Palace is one of the most imposing residential buildings in the Old Town. During the 1950s, the palace cellars hosted exhibitions of the Second Kraków Group and premieres of spectacles by the Cricot 2 Theatre. Since 1966, it has also been a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow (now Museum of Krakow). Running since 2001, the project “Krzysztofory Anew: Complete Museum” brings back the original interior arrangement with state-of-the-art infrastructure. Recent renovation works have revealed beautiful polychromes under layers of paint in several rooms. Remains of original walls, built in the 17th century joining two Gothic tenement houses, are exposed in the cellar. The building will also receive a new figurine of its patron: selected through a competition, it is a sculpture of St. Christopher carrying Baby Jesus, placed in a niche on the façade, recalling the original name of the building sub sancti Christofori and its 16th-century owner Krzysztof Morsztyn. The historic interiors will hold a modern exhibition space, library, archives, educational and administrative facilities, a shop and a café. Permanent and temporary exhibitions will present the history and heritage of the city and the palace itself. The renovated venue will also host concerts, literary meetings, debates, lectures and educational workshops. Opening is scheduled for the autumn.


Renovated polychromes at the Krzysztofory Palace, photo by Museum of Krakow

Return of the National Museum in Krakow
We’re delighted to announce that the National Museum in Krakow is reopening its permanent galleries in a brand-new arrangement. In April, the Princes Czartoryski Museum will present an exhibition of ancient art at the Arsenal, comprising the collection of Prince Władysław Czartoryski accumulated during the second half of the 19th century. The exhibition will also include items from the National Museum’s collections, a collection of the Potocki family of Krzeszowice including Roman sculptures and reliefs, and selected exhibits of the Institute of Archaeology of the Jagiellonian University. Items from the important Cracovian collections complement one another and reveal how art of some of the most significant ancient cultures developed over the ages. The gallery presents a wide selection of ancient art: stone architectural, decorative, portrait and funereal sculptures, wooden sculptures, cast and forged bronze, silver and gold items, paintings on wood, pottery, basketwork, porcelain and glass. They are ritual, decorative and every items and grave goods. The gallery will also present a collection of Greek and Roman coins and a selection of items found in Poland from the collection of Prince Władysław Czartoryski. We can’t wait for the opening!

In the autumn, the permanent 20th and 21st Centuries: Gallery of Polish Art exhibition makes a welcome return to the Main Building. Previous instalments of the Gallery of Polish 20th Century Art presented works by artists who have entered the canon, shown in the context of the most important artistic phenomena of the last century. What kind of vision of Polish contemporary art will museum curators reveal? The National Museum’s future plans also include permanent architecture and design exhibitions at the Szołayski House.


Red-Figure Kylix, clay, Greece, Onesimos painter, 500–480 B.C., photo by the National Museum in Krakow

All the king’s arrases
In spring, Wawel Royal Castle presents the full collection of tapestry masterpieces from the collection of King Sigismund August, celebrating the centenary of the return of unique tapestries from Soviet Russia and the 60th anniversary of their return from Canada. The arrases commissioned by the Polish king in Brussels between 1550 and 1560 comprise the largest collection of tapestries ever made for a single monarch. Originally numbering 170 items, the collection’s fate was as turbulent as Poland’s history, and in the 18th century it ended up in Petersburg palaces of Russian partitioners. Recovered following the Peace of Riga of 1921, during the Second World War the royal arrases were evacuated from Poland, first to Romania, France and the UK and finally over the ocean. In 1961, priceless tapestries were returned to Poland onboard the MS “Krynica”. 136 items have been preserved until today, including tapestries depicting events from the Book of Genesis, verdures featuring animals, arrases with the king’s monogram with grotesque ornamentation and tapestries with Polish and Lithuanian coats of arms. In March, the exhibition All the King’s Arrases. Returns 2021-1961-1921 will present all the preserved tapestries for the first time, including damaged items and fragments. They will go on display on both floors of the castle in exhibition chambers and private apartments. “We want to recall the tradition of grand exhibitions once held at the Castle, for example the exhibition celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of Vienna in 1983”, explains Dr. Andrzej Betlej, director of Wawel Royal Castle. The exhibition will also serve as a preview of a new arrangement of permanent exhibitions at the castle.


Arras ”Paradise” from the series “Lives of Adam and Eve”, ca. 1550, from the collection of King Sigismund August, Wawel Royal Castle

New Museum of Photography
Last year, the Museum of Photography in Krakow completed renovation work on the branch at the historic villa at 16 Józefitów Street. The building has been ready to open its doors to the public since autumn. Instead of traditional exhibitions, the museum presents workshops and repositories where visitors will be able to see some of the collections of Polish cameras, enlargers and projectors, early-20th century film projectors from Poland and abroad, and see curators at their work. During special guided tours, educators describe the lives of museum items from the point when they are added to a collection all the way to being presented at an exhibition or designated for a storeroom. Visitors will be able to take a peek into contemporary stores, conservation and digitalisation workshops and seek expert advice on how to care for their own photography collections. The programme will also feature meetings with photographers, visual artists, theorists and academics, introductions to classic photography techniques and a cycle of films exploring the links between photography and moving pictures. The museum is also working on opening its new main site at the revitalised building of the former arsenal at Rakowicka Street, aiming to open its doors in the second half of 2021. It will feature an extensive exhibition space, educational centre, library, reading room, bookshop and café, all set in a beautiful garden.


Visualisation of the new building of the Museum of Photography at 22 Rakowicka Street

Cultural Main Market Square
The long-awaited modernisation work on the Bunkier Sztuki building started last year, but the gallery continues its activities in the meantime. During the renovations, exhibitions and educational events will be held at Kraków’s brand-new cultural cluster: the Potocki Palace at 20 Maum Market Square. In 2021, Bunkier Sztuki comes to the beautiful palace cellars with presentations of the rarely-seen Bunkier Sztuki Collection and individual exhibitions of works by Cracovian artists; the first exhibition to be held at the Potocki Palace will be the presentation of the latest works by the painter, photographer and graphic designer Bartek Materka (from 2 February). Exhibitions will be accompanied by guided tours, educational events and a series of publications on Cracovian artists and painters. According to Maria Anna Potocka, director of Bunkier Sztuki and MOCAK, in autumn Bunkier Sztuki will join forces with the Starmach Gallery to present an exhibition of artistic fashion concepts focusing on Karl Lagerfeld.

After the difficult 2020, we cannot wait for all the good news from Kraków’s museum and galleries! (Dorota Dziunikowska)

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