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Young Emergent Scenes:
Deutsche Bank and the Cultural Exchange with Poland and Russia



The young art scenes in Poland and Russia are in emergence. Eastern Europe is hotter on the international art market than ever before. Despite this, many artists in these countries face difficult conditions of production. This is why Deutsche Bank's Cultural Foundation created the Award for Young Polish art, which was given for the very first time this year to Elzbieta Jablonska, who was born in 1970. Maria Morais on iconoclasts, visions of the future, cultural dialogues, and Deutsche Bank's commitment to art in Poland and Russia.



Museum for Contemporary Art - Zacheta Gallery in Warsow

He appeared in the exhibition space of the gallery dressed in a long coat and accompanied by a film team. Daniel Olbrychski wielded a saber before the hanging portraits, gave the pictures a good, telegenic stab for the benefit of the running cameras, and finally removed his own likeness from the wall. Flourishing his saber, the Polish actor, who became internationally known in the leading role of Volker Schlöndorff's The Tin Drum, unleashed the biggest art scandal in Polish post-war history.

The vandalism spectacle took place at the Warsaw museum for contemporary art, the Zacheta Gallery. The institution had shown Piotr Uklanski's work The Nazis in October 2000, which portrays a series of film portraits of a number of well-known actors and stars attired in SS and Wehrmacht uniforms. The heated news coverage of the event unleashed a spirited debate throughout Polish public opinion concerning art's freedom. Only two months later, this was further escalated by another attack on a work in the Galerie Zacheta. National Conservative members of parliament attempted to storm Maurizio Cattelan's sculpture The Holy Father at, of all things, an exhibition commemorating the institution's 100th birthday. The work portrays the pope being struck by a meteorite - and unmistakably bears the countenance of Johannes Paul II.



Piotr Uklanski, Untitled (Forest), 2001, Deutsche Bank Collection

Apart from the political reactions behind these two attacks on art at the Zacheta Gallery, the events mainly demonstrated one thing: that the political class still has to get used to the image worlds of the new media and modern art. To many of the exhibition's visitors, artistic strategies such as irony, ambiguity, and alienation were evidently difficult to decipher.

At the same time, a young scene of artists and artists' groups has long since formed in Cracow, making its mark with an abundance of openings and performances. An artist of this generation who symbolizes Poland's new cultural emergence is the 1972-born Wilhelm Sasnal, whose works are much in demand on the international art market - most recently at the young art fair Liste 04 in Basel. His painted comic series Zycie codzienne w Polsce w latach 1999-2001 (Everyday life in Poland between 1999 and 2001 ) reads like a chronicle of the rapid changes Poland has undergone throughout the nineties; his most recent works are also characterized by an individualist's perspective on the overall social phenomena.


Wawrzyniec Tokarski, HAUS C3 (NO FURTHER MESSAGES WILL FOLLOW), 1999
Deutsche Bank Collection

The increase in international attention paid towards Polish art shouldn't, however, deflect us from realizing just how difficult the situation for artists really is in the country. There's no lack of new galleries; what's missing is a potent local art market, financial means, and sponsors in a position to support all this new energy. In this respect, Deutsche Bank has been committing itself to furthering young Polish art since the early nineties; along with the carefully selected purchase of works by young Polish artists, among them Piotr Uklansky (1968) and Wawrzyniec Tokarski (1968), who took part in the deutschemalereizweitausenddrei in the Frankfurter Kunstverein last year, Deutsche Bank's Cultural Foundation created a further initiative last year. Its sponsorship program was expanded to include the Deutsche Bank Award for Young Polish Art - endowed with 10,000 Euros - a competition scheduled to take place every two years.


Elzbieta Jablonska, Helping, 2003

In collaboration with Deutsche Bank Poland, the Zacheta Gallery has dedicated an exhibition to the eight artists nominated for the prize, titled Spoyrzenia 2003. Elzbieta Jablonska, born in 1970, was selected as the award winner based on her work Helping, a piece consisting of embroidery and 60,000 destroyed zloty banknotes in a Plexiglas case. The embroidery depicts an ad run by an unemployed woman looking for a job and seeking to earn her living with the handicraft. The questions this work of art addresses concerning the value of labor take on increased social relevance in the context of Poland's controversial joining of the European Union.

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