Instytut Awangardy (Avant-Garde Institute)
Curated by Foksal Gallery Foundation
Whether it’s Trostky’s bullet-riddled villa in Coyoacán, Mexico, Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s retreat house in Sussex, or the Nietzsche House in Sils-Maria, Switzerland, a trip to a preserved and thereby altered place of truly significant creative production falls somewhere between the tourist cliché of encountering a time capsule and courting the uncanny: both embarrassing and comforting to the visitor, equal parts homage and opportunism. Occupying the top floor of a 1960s apartment building on Solidarności avenue, now maintained by the Foksal Gallery Foundation, the Avant-Garde Institute is a doubly elegiac gesture, as it was the home and studio for almost two decades of the artists Henryk Stażewski and Edward Krasiński and their partners. Stażewski, a painter and an important player in the international avant-garde scene of the 1920s and 1930s, took over the flat in 1962 and made it a social hub for meetings and cultural exchange. He invited, the younger, conceptually inclined Krasiński to live with him in 1970 during the difficult sociopolitical times of the period. Upon Stażewski’s death in 1988, Krasiński gradually morphed parts of their shared flat into a tribute to the elder artist and their friendship, enacting a visual archive and display. Krasiński maintained the wires and discoloration where Stażewski’s paintings had hung, for example, and deployed his own signature blue tape discreetly across parts of the apartment and studio, underscoring ephemeral moments of their shared creative life and quietly resistant aesthetic dialogue. By maintaining the exactitude of Krasiński’s in the moment, self-aware historicizing gesture, Foksal Gallery Foundation has become the caretaker of a potent site and paradoxical testament to the local avant-garde and its contested legacies.
Published in The Exhibitionist, Issue 9 (March 2014)