VIEWS 2017
The Deutsche Bank Award Exhibition at Zachęta

Zachęta means “encouragement.” And indeed, Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, which opened in 1960 in downtown Warsaw, stands for the social and cultural commitment of the middle class, as well as the spirit of optimism of the young Polish nation and its self-assurance through art. In the meantime, the museum has become one of the most important forums for local and international contemporary art in Poland. The first installment of VIEWS, an exhibition showcasing artists nominated for the Deutsche Bank Award, took place here in 2003. The cooperation project with Deutsche Bank strengthens the country’s artistic infrastructure and every other year gives the public an overview of current tendencies in the Polish art scene. In 2016 VIEWS came to Berlin. With COMMON AFFAIRS the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle and the Polnisches Institut Berlin jointly presented a selection of works by prizewinners and nominees.This year’s nominees are very political. The jury, chaired by the painter Paulina Ołowska, one of the country’s most prominent contemporary artists, nominated five artists born between 1984 and 1987 who all take a stance on the current situation in Poland.  

The domestic political situation has hardened since the election victory of the national conservative PiS party. The government and the opposition seem to stand irreconcilably against each other. It is precisely this division of Polish society that is dealt with in this exhibition revolving around the most important contemporary Polish art prize, with a special focus on the increasing nationalism in the country. Thus, Ewa Axelrad investigates the fascination stemming from uniforms, flags, and male associations. She shows how a longing for a collective identity leads to ostracism and ultimately can culminate in violence. Przemek Branas also engages with violence in his work. The point of departure of his video is the assassination of Gabriel Narutowicz, the first president of the Second Polish Republic. In 1922, he was shot on the large staircase of Zachęta by a nationalist fanatic.  

Łukasz Surowiec’s project is also explicitly political. He designed a fashion collection oriented to the look of demonstrators from the autonomous political scene. Like in a boutique, visitors can purchase the clothing at Zachęta. They can also receive clothes in exchange for photos that prove that they took part in an anti-fascist demonstration. The photos submitted are to become part of an exhibition or book. Surowiec is less concerned with the production of works than with the creation of social situations in daily life.

Honorata Martin is also interested in such situations, often taking herself to her physical and mental limits. One of her first videos shows the artist, sitting on a roof clad only in a swimsuit, where in 30 below zero temperatures she reads out loud from a book. For her most well-known action she crossed Poland on foot; over a period of two months she walked all alone from the Baltic Sea to Lower Silesia.

A painter was also selected this year: Agata Kus. Her canvases conjure up painted collages. Actors and literary figures appear, as well as musician friends of hers. References to Caravaggio and films such as Murnau’s Nosferatu, are discernible. Kus represents a young, internationally oriented generation who, thanks to the Internet, get their inspiration from all over the world..

Of the five finalists, the winner of the Deutsche Bank Award will be announced on October 26 at Zachęta. In addition to a prize endowed with 15,000 euros, a fellowship to stay at the Villa Romana artist’s house in Florence will be awarded. Visitors to the VIEWS exhibition can also vote for their favorites. The winner of the audience prize will also be revealed on October 26.

VIEWS 2017 ― Deutsche Bank Award

Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw