Modest Muses

The Tatra Museum, Gallery of 20th c. Art at Villa Oksza (5 December 2014 – 11 January 2015, preview on 4 December)


The “Modest Muses” exhibition has been conceived as part of the Tatra Conference – a meeting of artists and art theoreticians in Zakopane, with the focus on the avant-garde tradition of the place and the artists associated with it. It is also intended to investigate the mythology of the town and its surrounding nature. The point of departure for the discussion is the art of sculptor Władysław Hasior (1928-1999). His entire life close to Zakopane, in his art Hasior always drew on the material culture of the Tatras, its rituals and symbols.  The exhibition is a response to both his artistic practice and the context in which he created.

The key used in the process of selecting works for the exhibition was Hasior’s assemblages – the sculptures and paintings made up of found objects. The space of the gallery, once a domestic interior, has become filled with common objects, such as pottery, old household appliances, decorative textiles, hairpins, buttons, plastic cables, colour stones. Ordinary things in extraordinary configurations. The exhibition centres on the marginal and inconspicuous, blurring the divisions between the banal and the peculiar, putting any hasty judgments on pause. The artists have made their pieces from leftovers, remains, waste, fragments. Assembled, compiled, moved around and remounted, these scraps have reinvented their functions, receiving new and complex meanings.

The assemblage is the construction rule which was applied in many of the exhibited works. It has not, however, determined the actual content of the show which is about the insightful and vigilant observation of reality via the prism of intuition and imagination, questioning the binary division of the world into the animate and inanimate. The objects gathered in the gallery are made to function in a grey zone – between the rational and the irrational. They bear traces of their users and give credibility to their personal narrativesstories. They even get to speak themselves…. thus destroying the hierarchical subject/object opposition. Their unclear status undermines the economy based on the interdependence of commodity – fetish – consumption. The alternative is a relationship based on dialogue, emotions and creative symbiosis.

In 1960s when Hasior made his first assemblages, Claude Lévi-Strauss linked the mode of action of the anthropological figure of the bricoleur with the process of myth construction. A bricoleur makes use of whatever material he has at hand so as to create new entities and solutions. Myths are also made from the already existing and recognized elements which are combined in order to seek explanations of incomprehensible phenomena. The exhibition reverberates with mysteries of the Tatras. Its atmosphere is determined by the character of the surrounding natural landscape, the legends and the surrealist tropes visible in the work of many artists related to the place. Crammed here are bizarre creatures, hybrids and objects with supernatural properties. Their roots are deep in the local stories and the dark corners of the consciousness of their makers. Their histories are set against the lush but harsh and sometimes ominous nature. It is she that sets the rhythm of life in the mountains. The everyday and its laws are subject to the unsteady power of the elements.

The Modest Muses from the title delineate a space for celebrating this mysterious reality, where our imagination is but a tool for learning facts. The exhibition, of which they are the patrons, aims to find alternative forms of experiencing.  It is a collection of thoughts on ways of seeing, objectifying and subjectivity, about nature, art, rubbish and recycling as a creative method. The magic, the ritual, and the metaphor are set alongside virtual entities, ecology, and technology. The hierarchies and the dividing lines between them lose their ground, fluttering in the disturbingly warm mountain wind blowing from the far south.


Artists: Caroline Achaintre, Geta Brătescu, Agnieszka Brzeżańska, Ewa Ciepielewska, Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, Habima Fuchs, Walon Green, Běla Kolářová, Mark Leckey, Basim Magdy, Charlotte Moth, Paulina Ołowska, Erna Rosenstein



The artistic programme is organized by Open Art Projects and the Tatra Museum in Zakopane


Curator: Kasia Redzisz

Artistic programme coordination: Magda Materna with assistance of Emma Knaflewska

Coordination on behalf of the Tatra Museum: Julita Dembowska



The artistic programme has been financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Małopolskie Voivoideship and the City of Zakopane in partnership with the Zakopane Promotion Office

Project supported by Institutes of Polish Culture in London, Stockholm and Paris


Honorary patronage: Janusz Majcher – Mayor of the City of Zakopane


Partners in the organisation of the event: Schronisko Górskie PTTK w Dolinie Pięciu Stawów Polskich (Mountain Shelter in the Valley of the Five Ponds), Sokół Cinema, Dworzec Tatrzański


Additional support: Grand Hotel Stamary, Centralny Ośrodek Sportu Zakopane, Hotel Skalny, Restauracja Konstantynówka, Karpla Konsulting, Osman Djajadisastra, Future Tech Marcin Słodyczka, Maciej Stasiński, Kropla Krynicy, Sabała Karczma – 1879 – Hotel


Partners of Open Art Projects: Polpharma, The Starak Family Foundation, Spectra Art Space, European Compensation Center


Our thanks go to: Marie Klimešová, Marta Krzeptowska, Marychna Krzeptowska, Krzysztof Lewandowski, Michal Mánek, Anna Muszyńska, Błażej Pindor, Jerzy Starak, Kola Śliwińska, SVIT Praha, the owners of the works and the artists