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ECoC 2016: the year of visual arts

„Now that was something to look at! The year of the European Capital of Culture Wrocław 2016 was the time when we presented over 70 exhibitions and carried out 20 projects as part of the “Wrocław – Backyard Door” project. The visual arts programme also covered performances, shows or artistic festivals such as the Survival Art Review, the TIFF Festival and the European Glass Festival.

“Sounds” - an exhibition of Eduardo Chillida’s works – was an important and significant event which opened a new chapter in the visual arts programme. It was the first time that over 40 works of this exceptional Basque artist were available in Poland. The selection of that famous sculptor was not just intentional – it was special. Chillida was born and worked in San Sebastian - the city that shares with Wrocław the title of European Capital of Culture 2016. This way we initiated a dialogue between the two cities in different parts of Europe. A totally different artistic expression was captured in the exhibition of works by Krzysztof Gierałtowski in San Sebastian, titled “Polish Individualities”. Among other projects that connected the two European Capitals of Culture wasBASK, which presented the Basque culture, and an exhibition of works by Łukasz Rusznica, a Wrocław photographer, titled “European Eyes on Japan”.

The programme of visual arts paid special attention to the works of artists from Wrocław. The exhibition titled “Art. Seeks IQ” is especially worth mentioning. The curatorial selection presented a broad outline of different trends and techniques - starting with art deriving from the neo-avant- -garde of the 1960s, to the counterculture generation, to the latest forms of art; from painting, sculpture and  glass to installations and video art.

Rediscovering Wacław Szpakowski, who is recognised as one of the pioneers of abstract art in Poland, was also a very important event.

The year 2016 created a chance to organise exhibitions outside Lower Silesia. This is how the following exhibitions were prepared: “The Wild West. A History of Wrocław’s Avant-garde” (Warsaw, Kosice, Bochum, Zagreb, and Budapest), “The Germans Did Not Come” (Dresden) or a series of exhibitions of artists from Wrocław at Test Gallery in Warsaw.

Locality, society, activation and cooperation with the residents were the features of the “Wrocław – Backyard Door” programme, which had a markedly experimental character because it confronted artistic visions with local needs. Among the implemented projects there were “Trafostation”

by Joanna Rajkowska, “The Ash-tree House” by Niedzielni, “Jacob’s Ladder” by Jakub Szczęsny, ”Skylight” by Joanna Piaścik or a yard series „WHO’S THERE” created by Karolina Breguła together with the residents of Ołbin. The Workshop at 45 Komuny Paryskiej Street also organized unique actions for children and young people, film screenings and intergenerational neighbourhood meetings. The Workshop is a very important place and the only one of such profile that operates in Przedmieście Oławskie."

Michał Bieniek

Curator of visual arts


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