The exhibition “Microhistories” tells twenty stories about paintings from the Collection of Modern Art of the National Museum in Warsaw. The stories do not reflect the exhaustive studies conducted on these works. Our idea is to depart from the conventional museum narration. We want to bring the works from museum’s collection closer to the audience, and to reveal to the viewers the arcane details of the work of the museum staff, storage workers, inventory and preservation specialists. The stories begin with minute details (microhistory) in order to take them to a broader context of a given problem (macrohistory). The methods of building the stories have varied considerably. Some of them examine a given painting as an object with its own material history, while others launch attempts at intertextual analyses of their position in the historic and literary contexts. Microhistories differ from each other, as they have been filtered through subjective emotions and associations of a number of authors. Some of them depart from an anecdote, while others take as their starting point a formal analysis. Some begin with an odd curio to reach the level of general historical reflection, while others are devoted to minute details, fragments of works, their authors’ figures or purely visual associations.
In January 2013, the National Museum in Warsaw launched in its main edifice the Gallery of 20th and 21st century Art, which presents a coherent but limited vision of the history of Polish art as a series of transformations and seminal events occurring in a sequence. Yet, the Collection of Modern Art comprises manifold works which could not be displayed at the Gallery. Therefore, we have decided to show a different face of the collection by presenting both the works that are well-known and those never exhibited. Thus, the paintings function here as Benjamin’s monads, separate entities displaying no mutual connections to help arrange them in a linear sequence. The viewer’s imagination is free to forge all kinds of links with the help of documents and texts that accompany the stories. Yet, the viewers might as well remain indifferent and let themselves go with the flow of their own fantasies. The exhibition encourages its audiences to contemplate the details and explore the unusual and singular threads from the history of paintings on display.
Curated by: Tomasz Jeziorowski, Izabela Mościcka, Magdalena Nowak
Exhibition Design: Paulina Tyro-Niezgoda