The fifth edition of the open call for works for the Gdańsk Collection of Modern Art, which is gradually deposited at the National Museum in Gdańsk and exhibited at NOMUS, the New Art Museum, will result in the newly-opened department exhibiting pieces selected through a unique, democratic process.
Amassed since 2017, the collection grows under an annual open call. The expert judging commission selects a number of artworks for purchase for the collection from among the submitted entries. As a result, the collection consists mainly of works by distinguished Polish artists (incl. Joanna Rajkowska, Agnieszka Kalinowska and Karol Radziszewski), with a large contingent of artists from Gdańsk (incl. Grzegorz Klaman, Piotr Wyrzykowski, Michał Szlaga, Dorota Nieznalska, Anna Królikiewicz or the legendary Gdańsk TOTART Group from the 1980s and 90s) and its donors are, in a way, the people of Gdańsk themselves.
In its latest edition, the open call was announced in August 2021 with a total of 104 entries submitted, of which the commission selected eight. Shipyard by Edna Baud, who represents the youngest generation of Gdańsk-based artists, is a mysterious and disturbing image of the Shipyard with female figures emerging from the water like the sirens or goddesses familiar from art history. You can also see a less-than-obvious depiction of the female body in Self-Portrait by Hanna Nowicka, an important voice in the context of the burgeoning Polish feminist movement of the 1990s. Agnieszka Kalinowska’s Heavy Water is an installation made up of forty clay jugs, replicas of various kinds of ancient vases. Each vessel features schematic figures, painted with a dark line, that are running away or hiding. In this way, the issue of refugees has been elevated to a universal topic that has been with humanity forever. The Good Morning sound installation by Honorata Martin and Piotr Pawlak, with a dominant field recording of dogs barking, allows you to reflect upon the contemporary meaning of hospitality. The Fence by Dominik Lejman points to the problem of limitation and entrapment, very timely at an age of humanitarian and refugee crises. It is much like Husan by Maciej Moskwa (winner of the Photo of the Year winner in Grand Press Photo 2015), which shows a 12-year-old refugee from Kobane who looks at the viewer from behind the fence of a Turkish refugee camp. Tears of Joy by Oskar Dawicki raises the question of how we experience emotions and work with them, especially in the context of the search for male sensitivity. On the other hand, I Do Not Tolerate Impurity, an early work (2004) by Gdańsk-based artist Jacek Niegoda, is an irreverent commentary on the situation of bed-ridden patients and the staff that work for them.
In the most recent open call, the members of the Art Acquisition Commission nominated by the Mayor of Gdańsk include independent experts: Hanna Wróblewska (Director, Zachęta National Gallery of Art) and Jarosław Suchan (Director, Art Museum in Łódź), Krzysztof Polkowski (Rector, Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk), and representatives of the following Gdańsk art institutions: Jacek Friedrich (Director, National Museum in Gdańsk), Jadwiga Charzyńska (Director, Centre for Contemporary Art), Małgorzata Ludwisiak (Chief Curator, Department of Modern Art at the National Museum in Gdańsk), Aneta Szyłak (Head of NOMUS) and Piotr Stasiowski (Director of the Gdańsk City Gallery).
The aim of the long-term collection-building programme is to establish a collection based primarily on the work of local artists or those inspired by the history, tradition and local character of Gdańsk. It is especially important for this art to represent the values that are key to the city’s identity that evoke the idea of freedom, solidarity, equality and openness.