Industry Voices: Marta Czyż

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Hi Marta! Could you introduce yourself and tell our readers what your activity is within the art world?

I am an art historian, critic, and exhibition curator who work mainly in Poland. I create exhibitions, write a lot. Also, I have been researching the history of exhibitions in Poland for years.

Marta Czyż. Photo by Yuriy Biley
As a curator, what is the most important for you about the artist you want to work with?

The most important thing is, of course, their art, their commitment, and their approach to their work. I am interested in the often non-obvious relationship between art and society, politically engaged works, and critical art. However, I appreciate and often invite artists with outstanding craftsmanship, painters, sculptors.

Do you prefer to work with a particular gallery and create exhibitions there, or to create your concept, the idea of place, and artists?

I have been working as an independent curator for years. As an art critic, I am also not associated with a single title; I write for, Miej Miejsce, Vogue, Wysokie Obcasy, Polityka, Harpers Bazaar. While making exhibitions, I like the white cube space. However, I also find authentic locations, and public spaces fascinating, challenging. One such project was the Festival of Ephemeral Arts in Sokołowsko, which I realized in 2020. Together with Julia Wielgus and Joanna Zielińska, we programmed a series of events that took place in the cinema, in the park, or the office of the In Situ Foundation. These included eco-queer readings, a breath walk, or the act of signing a contract between a group of artists and the Foundation. Above all, I admire working with professional institutions. If an institution is well organized, respects artists, and keeps certain standards, then the very definition of a given space no longer matters to me.

Today we are confronted with the most diverse art market to date. Do you think that in such circumstances, curators, gallerists, and collectors should emphasize promoting at least local artists to seek a balance between artistic giants?

To me, it seems that the local context has become increasingly important over the years. The art giants are such monuments that we all associate with them. Setting boundaries and extending them to include the local context is a big challenge for curators and gallerists. That ultimately has to do with the market's greater involvement in such situations. Importantly, we all still have the same task, to capture present situations, themes, and people who dedicate their lives to ideas. Which further on, they want to convey in the tangible and intangible form to the art world.

Exhibition at Municipal Art Centre in Gorzów Wielkopolski, photos by Szymon Rogiński
In the context of less known artists, more focused on local audiences. Do you think that placing artists in unusual locations, having a small audience is part of the idea behind local exhibitions? Or maybe if only they had the opportunity and the right conditions, it would be worth moving them to bigger, more famous venues?

Showing and working on the visibility of any artist we value is one of the most important tasks of my profession. One can be a local artist, like Władysław Hasior, who created mainly in Zakopane, although he had many projects all over Poland. He traveled around Europe documenting his work in the form of a Photographic Notebook. He never wanted to make an international career. He was a simple man who wanted to create. Since he died in the 1990s, his art has gradually become international. Many other artists working today gain recognition immediately on the world stage. You never know when the time will come for a particular artist.

In 2015, together with Julia Wielgus, you wrote a book W Ramach Wystawy – rozmowy z kuratorami (In the Frame Of The Exhibition – talks with curators). Could you tell us a little more about it and where the idea for it came from?
"W ramach wystawy - rozmowy z kuratorami" / "In the Frame of the Exhibition - Conversations with Polish Curators"
Marta Czyż, Julia Wielgus

In 2009 we started our curatorial studies at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Studies had many compelling classes, that after each meeting, we had plenty of questions for the tutors. We were curious, for example, how they started their curatorial careers at a time when curatorial studies did not yet exist.  We asked everyone at the beginning, jocularly but ultimately quite seriously, the same question: What did you want to be when you grew up? We realized that nobody would answer that their dream was to become an art curator. That was only the beginning of their further story about how they came to a career such as creating exhibitions.

From your perspective, is there any field of art at the moment that is increasingly losing interest? If so, is there any action that could give it a second life?

I do not think there is an area of art now that is losing interest, quite the contrary. Many media are coming back into favor today. For instance, textiles are represented very well by the Central Museum of Textiles in Łódź (Poland). To me, it seems that art in any form, technique, or manner will always return to us; we have art historians, curators, and artists who care about it.

But what is important is what happens next. Looking to the future of art is a significant task and a unique challenge for us. When I think about my future projects and exhibitions, I build on what has happened so far, but I also think about what could happen. In what way I could go beyond what has been done so far. Then I think of texts by Jerzy Ludwiński, a Polish art theoretician, who in 1972 wrote an essay entitled “Sztuka w epoce postartystycznej” ("Art in the Post-Artistic Era") in which he wrote It is very likely that today we no longer deal with art. We had simply missed the moment when it transformed into something else, something we can no longer name. However, what we are dealing with today certainly has greater possibilities.  With this quote, I would like to end this delightful conversation. 

Exhibition at Municipal Art Centre in Gorzów Wielkopolski, photos by Szymon Rogiński

Written by
Jagienka Parteka