Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Polish Art - Why Warsaw, Cracow and Wroclaw could be the new Berlin?

A couple weeks back I headed out to PayneShurvell Gallery to see the solo show of the Polish artist Anka Dabrowska. I met her and her girlfriend, and jammed for a little bit asking her questions about her work and her background! Anka's sculptures and drawings are triggered by the buildings and scenery from her hometown in Warsaw. The growth of commercialism and capitalism, as the country joined the EU and later will join the Euro, things started to change and will continue to change rapidly in 2012. Her sculptures seem to draw me in more, because the un-elitist materials are sandwiched together, from concrete to cardboard. But designer brands like Fred Perry on a cardboard box... this is like chalk and cheese. It feels strangely surreal when the two are juxtaposed together! Perhaps this is the strange surreality that is taking place in Warsaw at the moment, where the Fred Perrys of the world are starting to tag their presence over the more ghetto streets of Warsaw.

Talking to a friend of mine who is also from Warsaw, the matching of prices, the pound to the euro will make Poland seem like an extremely cheap place to live, and to go out if not already. Polish art is becoming extremely sort after, an investment, and is on the up as the economy booms and the market seems to be expanding over here and there. The exciting Miroslaw Balka put his black box in the Tate Modern beginning of this year. Konrad Wyrebek who I exhibited with as part of the Gadje Collective seems to be selling many of his paintings which are similar in style to the Japanese artist Tomoo Gokita. Go Konrad! x

And as an artist stuck in London, I have seen a number of friends make moves further east from here to Berlin in particular, in search of that cool factor, the inspiration, space or cheaper costs. Berlin hails to be underground, a clash between East and non-commercial with the Western money making front. Whilst Berlin lacks money, it is full of inspiration and young creative people making works of art for the love of it. Hot collaborations such as Cardiff and Miller reside in Berlin. Chiharu Shiota's installations which exhibited at the Hayward (southbank Centre) before having a solo show at Haunch of Venison also lives and started her career in Berlin. There is a lot more space to embrace cutting edge works and installations.

My friends say to me "Leo, What are you still doing in London?" Why are you wasting your time here when your installations can expand elsewhere! You need to get out of this place. But at the same time as Berlin may be exciting, I question "is it also too over-rated, too populated by people already doing this, emigrating from London for that reason?"

Indeed it seems to be happening everywhere and not just in London, Berlin seems to be the Mecca for artists wishing to escape the claws of the costs. But there are some who choose not to. Speaking with an artist friend in Amsterdam - Aukje Dekker, who has set up an underground art space in the North of Amsterdam (outside the main) near the NDSM shipyard complex, she said that whilst others are moving to Berlin, she is remaining in Amsterdam as she believes there are still opportunities to be had. Amsterdam also has a professional and strong circuit with a lot of reputable galleries. But the artistic community seems a little more designer-ish rather than arty-ish. But NDSM does appear to be a mini-Berlin in Amsterdam, full of warehouse units, residencies and an artistic community that doesn't necessarily place money at the forefront of its creative repertoire.

I think that Berlin has a novelty which may very well become a thing of the past. I have heard that various native Berlin artists are even moving further out East to places that are even cheaper and more economical.

Perhaps Warsaw is soon on the up as a new Berlin? As an artist working in Installation, sculpture or any work that requires larger space, realistically, it is possible to acquire a good space abroad, hire local skilled assistants thus helping support the economy, create more jobs, and ultimately (as a business plan) it working out far cheaper and more economical to live there, than renting a studio annually in London?

But not only Warsaw, in fact Wroclaw seems to be where many artists are also headed with large shows. Cracow has become extremely exciting for Contemporary art, with several extremely good residencies there as well.

When I look at Anka's work, I see a taste of the urban, a taste of what parts of Berlin are like but this is Warsaw! Poland! A culture clash. The underground, the drugs, the clubs, the bomb-sheltered buildings, wired fences, do not trespass signs. Anarchist occupations. From crazy punk warehouses and squat raves to candy coloured kitsch and cosmopolitan high street stores where economy increases capitalism. Post Communism revival. New galleries, new artists! Whilst Polish artists seek commercial opportunities here, we seek non-commercial opportunities there... such a strange paradox. That's Life!

Perhaps it is too ahead of its time or perhaps it is already happening right now, who knows? I'm merely speculating! Whilst Polish artists are moving here because the economy is better in the hope of artistic opportunities, for many artists who seek space and cheaper costs it is more effective to move east. But for now in my mind, it seems to be 'from Poland with love', and not from Russia or Germany!

I leave you with some more of Anka's sculptures that combine the ghetto with the fabulous, the graffiti and spray paint with huge commercial brands. Christoph Buchell, Thomas Hirschhorn and the Mutoid Waste company meets Ed Ruscha signs and stations.

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