Forms in a Space - Exhibition of Poznań's public sculptures in National Museum in Poznań

September 26, 2020 | Anna Zielazny

 Forms in a Space was inaugurated in the National Museum in Poznań on the 12th of July and lasted until the 13th of September. The curators, Anna Borowiec and Mateusz Bieczyński focused on the outdoor sculptures of Poznań from the 1960s and 1970s. The show was organized by the National Museum in Poznań and the Rarytas Art Foundation.

The exhibition presented real size sculptures, bozettos, and the project sketches of those sculptures. Some projects were realized in the public space. However, some exist only as projects that were never realised. At the exhibition, visitors can see works by 16 artists from Poznań.

The display is varied with archival pictures of sculptures taken by Jerzy Nowakowski and current photographs by Magdalena Andrynowska, that show the present state of the sculptures located in the Cytadela park and Rataje district.

At the show, visitors can see sketches and pictures of Anna Krzymańska's sculpture, The Peacock. This piece won a competition to be displayed in a park in 1961, and its reproduction is currently located in Karol Marcinkowski's Park.

The other important artworks shown at this exhibition are sculptures that were presented at the exposition in front of the Hotel Mercury in the years 1967-1974. The first sculpture that was created for the outdoor display was "Couple under an umbrella", designed and executed by Józef Kopczyński. Currently, people can see this piece in Poznań's Botanical Garden.

Also worth mentioning is a piece named "Seagulls" created by Jerzy Sobociński. It is a significant sculpture as it was the first artwork to be located in the Cytadela Park, an outdoor memorial and sculpture park.

In the late 60s, Poznań city started a big project in the "modern district" named Rataje. It is an iconic example of the socrealistic architecture that was supposed to be "nationalist in form and socialist in the matter". Big block building arose in the city, creating a communal, yet brutal space of living. In the 70’s, the form was ready, so there came a time to fill this neighbourhood with socialist matter. Because of that, the authorities announced two competitions, Rataje ‘73 and Rataje ‘74. Not many sculptures from this time survived, as some people disliked them so much that they destroyed them. Most of the sculptures made of metal were stolen to sell the material they were made of. The survivors are witnesses of the socialist time in Poland and show a difficult and complex relation between Poles, and the socrealistic time.


This exhibition gives an overview of the art from a particular period and city. It presents a resemblance of the old times, providing a bigger image of the Polish public art of the 60s and 70s. It is crucial to notice that, in comparison to the other countries under socialism, the Polish art scene could enjoy a bit more freedom.

At the exhibition, visitors can see abstract forms and figural sculptures showing sportsmen and women (e.g. Józef Kopczyński's The Swimmer), animals and maternity scenes. Figural sculptures, especially ones that show mothers with children, cover a flagship topic of the socrealist time. However, only Polish and Yugoslavian artists could officially show abstract art. This is why abstract sculptures are a unique example of the public pieces created during socialist times.

This exhibition can be considered as an attempt of elevating sculptures that lost their value in the eyes of the people, to the rank of the museum piece. Most of these sculptures over the years became anonymous or forgotten, even though the artists that created them were quite popular and appreciated at the time when the sculptures were created.

It seems that sculptures that used to be a part of Poznań's landscape, over time, become silent ghosts of the past era, that would be rather forgotten by most. Just a few of them still enjoy the attention of passers-by and are in a good state. Rest, literally and metaphorically, becomes a quiet forgotten past.


Bringing old projects and old pictures of sculptures and juxtaposing them with current photos in a museum space gives these pieces a new context. This new setting can be interpreted in two ways.

First, by exhibiting remnants of the forgotten sculptures in the art gallery, curators gave them a new life. They drove the attention of the residents of Poznań to these pieces. Even though these sculptures do not fulfil the aesthetical taste of the modern viewer, they're part of this city’s (art) history and deserve to be noticed. Showing them in the national museum also has an extra meaning. National galleries are, by their name, the places where national heritage is shown. The time of socialism and its art might be considered by many as uncomfortable and unpleasant, but it is still a big part of Polish national history.

Another way to read this exhibition is to consider a museum as a place that shows items from the previous era. When sculptures go (back) to the museum, they become relics of the past that still exist somewhere in the back of the communal consciousness but are no longer part of contemporary life.

I'm a polish art historian, specialized in Eastern European art. Currently, I am living in Porto, Portugal. I am a creative writer and the author of SlowMotionTravels blog.

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