Muzeum Slaskie (The Silesian Museum)

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Established in 1929, Muzeum Śląskie in Katowice is the largest museum institution in the region. Closed at the outbreak of World War II and re-established in the middle of the 1980s, in 2015 it was given a new site which is unique on a global scale. Situated on the grounds of a former coal mine, the architectural complex combines industrial tradition with modernity. Exhibition spaces with a surface area of over six thousand square metres are located in revitalised former mine buildings as well as in underground halls.

The Museum’s activity is focussed on the widely-understood historical relations of multi-cultural Silesia with Poland and the rest of the world. In the permanent exhibitions, visitors may view Polish art from the 19th and 20th centuries, amateur art and sacral art, among other subjects. Of particular interest is the narrative exhibition “Light of history” dedicated to the history of Upper Silesia. However, Muzeum Śląskie is not only about the past, but also the present: there are presentations of modern art, installations, artistic ventures, performance art, workshops and close cooperation with the local community. 

Collection

Muzeum Śląskie in Katowice has had a collection of non-professional art since 1984, initially as part of the Ethnography Department, then the Department of Non-Professional Art of the Art Department, now the Department of Non-Professional Art.

Described and recorded extensively, non-professional art is a phenomenon known since the late 19th century. The diversity of this field of art precludes any uniform criteria or unambiguous classification of related artists and their works. Even specialized researchers face challenges in this realm, as reflected by the imprecise names and the variety of terms used: naïve art, amateur art and self-taught art.

Muzeum Śląskie’s collection of non-professional art highlights the originality and identity of Silesia’s amateur art, primarily from the perspective of culture and identity, but also from the aesthetic and artistic viewpoint. The collected exhibits aim to highlight the amateur art movement from the interwar period to this day, focussing on groups such as Grupa Janowska, Gwarek 58, Bielszowice, Filar 72 and 18-Obsydian. The collection covers Silesia’s leading artists: Teofil Ociepka, Erwin Sówka, Paweł Wróbel, Ludwik Holesz, Bronisław Krawczuk, Ewald Gawlik, Władysław Luciński, Marek Idziaszek and Jan Nowak, as well as artists lesser-known yet equally important to understand this phenomenon.

The collection is not limited to Silesian artists, as it also includes works by major artists of other Polish regions such as Edmund Monsiel, Nikifor, Maria Wnęk, Stanisław Zagajewski and Justyna Matysiak, an inclusion that affords a broader view of this phenomenon and its comparative analysis.

Muzeum Śląskie’s ever-growing collection of non-professional art attests to the importance of the artists in question and promotes Upper Silesia as it is often featured in books, newspapers and films.

 

The Gallery of Non-professional Art

The exhibition is dedicated to Upper Silesia’s non-professional art. No other field of art is associated so closely with the life and experience of an artist, describing their community, work, family relationships, drawing upon traditions and memories. The structure of this exhibition rests on a mining metaphor conceived as a combination of three symbolic areas essential to Silesian tradition. The mineshaft and the winding tower frame link the work-related underground section, the aboveground section associated with community life, and the sky, which stands for spirituality. These spheres reflect the traditional Silesian axiomatic triad of God, work and family.

The first part of the exhibition presents all that is directly or indirectly related to work and mining: mine architecture, mining passages and the efforts of miners working their shifts. Another element related to the difficult work underground is the cult of St. Barbara, the images of whom would often be used to adorn underground passages.

The second part of the exhibition is devoted to what goes on above the ground: home, family and garden, among other aspects of community life in mining settlements. The stories narrated by paintings here reveal a strong attachment to all things familiar to the painters. Aiming at the most beautiful rendition possible, the artists use a wide colour range to make sense of or even idealize what they have seen or memorized.

The final sequence of the exhibition alludes to the hoisting tower that crowns the body of the mine, a symbol of infinity that pierces the sky. Therefore, it covers artworks related to transcendence and going beyond oneself. Besides the traditional concept of religiosity, the artworks in this section also point to a quest for values that transcend human cognition.

The central narrative of the exhibition dedicated to non-professional art in Silesia is complemented by works by members of the Gwarek 58 group, miners of the former Katowice Coal Mine.

 

Curator: Sonia Wilk

 

 

 

 

Legal status:
public organisation

 
Permanent address:
al. W. Korfantego 3
40-005 Katowice
Poland

 
Phone number:
+48 32 77 99 301
 
 
Email address:
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Website:

Year of foundation: 1929

Number of permanent staff: 107
Full time: 95
Part time: 12

Type of organisation: Museum