Muzeum Sztuki, or the Museum of Art in Łódź is a museum of modern and contemporary art in Łódź, whose main goal is to research and display avant-garde art, as well as progressive artistic interventions.
The institution is housed in three branches: MS1, MS2 and Herbst Palace Museum [Polish: Muzeum Pałac Herbsta]. Established in 1930, it is one of the oldest existing and active museums to collect avant-garde art. In 1998 Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź was entered into the Polish National Register of Museums under number 53.
Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź is primarily focused on studying and displaying the collection of 20th and 21st century art in a variety of contexts, as well as on providing progressive artistic interventions and enhancing the role of art as element of social life, e.g., through educational activities.
Its programme coincides with avant-garde project worked out at the turn of the 1920s and 1930s by the “a.r.” group or, more precisely, by Władysław Strzemiński, Katarzyna Kobro and Henryk Stażewski) and with the idea developed by Ryszard Stanisławski (Muzeum’s director in the years 1966–1992) of a “museum as a critical instrument”. These ideas are further expanded in the assumption, according to which a museum is capable of re-defining and updating notions pertaining to art and culture and establishing social relations with the involvement of art. Through exhibition, research, educational and publishing programme, the Muzeum strives to practice the idea of art as a way to experience, feel and understand the reality, which was a part of avant-garde dream of creative life available to all.
36 Więckowskiego St
ms is a centre of vigorous response to the phenomena of contemporary culture and working out new ways of approaching them. The space of ms is a venue for implementing the eventful programme of temporary exhibitions, projects related to experimental film, video and performance art, as well as workshops and educational activities. Contemporariness is combined with tradition here: the Neoplastic Room, designed by Władysław Strzemiński, has remained in the building. It constitutes a starting point for projects realised by other artists. The change of the former scope of the Museum’s activity has been accompanied by modernisation and new design of the building, with due respect for the historic character of the palace interior. ms also houses a café with a music club and a bookshop – a venue for meetings, discussions and debut promotion.
19 Ogrodowa St / Manufaktura
This new space of the Muzeum Sztuki is located in the historic building of a 19th century weaving plant. ms2 is primarily a venue for experimenting with the Collection of 20th and 21st century Art. The unique items of the collection are presented here in an unconventional way: instead of a chronological lecture on the development of art, works of art representing various periods and movements are arranged into a story touching themes and motifs important for the contemporary public. The permanent exhibition is open and constantly subject to alterations, rearranged by invited curators and artists themselves. ms2 also features temporary exhibitions, workshops, lectures, meetings with artists and film screenings. The building also houses Boston Café and an artistic bookshop, mała litera art.
72 Przędzalniana St
This branch of the Muzeum Sztuki is situated in a 19th century palace and park complex. In the restored residence, formerly owned by the Herbst family – a family of industrialists from Lodz – an exceptional exposition of interiors from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries can be seen. The palace also constitutes a venue for temporary exhibitions, concerts and educational activities. It principally focuses on the promotion of 19th century art and disseminating knowledge on the heritage of this period. The concept of the exposition in Herbst Palace was highly appraised by the Pan-European Federation for Heritage, which awarded the museum the first Europa Nostra medal in Poland in 1990. A stepping stone for 20th and 21st century art collection of Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz, Poland – one of the oldest modern art museums in the world – is the International Collection of Modern Art of the “a.r.” group (opened 1931). It defined the avant-garde character of the whole museum. It is a unique phenomenon as it was initiated and called to life by the artists themselves and consists of artists’ donations; it assumed its shape as a result of solidary effort to act above and against boundaries. The initiator and driving force of the movement was Władysław Strzemiński, a painter, art theorist and “a.r” group leader, with active support from the sculptor and his wife Katarzyna Kobro, the painter Henryk Stażewski, and the poets – Jan Brzękowski and Julian Przyboś, although it is a result of many people’s efforts, also Hans Arp and Michel Seuphor to name a few. They were able to collect in a period 1929-1931 in total 111 works of the outstanding representatives of Polish and international avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s, representing movements beginning with cubism, futurism, constructivism, purism and neoplasticism and ending with surrealism. As a result the Collection was a cross-section of the avant-garde trends and tendencies of the late 1920’s, with a unique presentation of abstractionists such as Hans Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Theo van Doesburg or Georges Vantongerloo. The avant-garde collection was given as a deposit to the Miejskie Muzeum Historii i Sztuki im. Juliana i Kazimierza Bartoszewiczów [Julian and Kazimierz Bartoszewicz Public Museum of History and Art], established 1930 at Plac Wolności 1, and first shown to the public in 1931 in two rooms.
After 2nd World War, in 1948, the museum changed its place of residence for one of the palaces of the Poznański’s family – at Więckowskiego St. 36, which is one of its venues until today. In 1950 it was accepted by the state and gained its current name: Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź. Close relation of the museum with artists bore fruit with numerous donations also after the war. In 1945 a widow after Karol Hiller donated legacy of this great artist. In the same year Władysław Strzemiński and Katarzyna Kobro donated their artistic output. In 1957, thanks to the mediation of acting in Paris Denise René, Michel Seuphor, Jan Brzękowski, Edouard Jaguer and Jerzy Kujawski, works of various artistic trends (inter alia surrealism) and international avant-garde were acquired. In 1975 Mateusz Grabowski, the owner of the London Gallery, donated 230 works of the most distinguished representatives of the young British art to the Muzeum Sztuki. 1981 is in turn a time of another very important event for the museum: visit of Joseph Beuys and his donation of a part of his Archive, containing over one thousand works. It was an action Polentransport 1981. In the same year NSZZ “Solidarność” gave as a permanent deposit a collection of works donated by participants of the international artistic event Construction in Process to the Muzeum Sztuki. In 1983 American artists donated a collection of their works to the Łódź musuem, collected as a result of Échange entre artistes 1931–1982, Pologne-USA action initiated by Henryk Stażewski, Anka Ptaszkowska, Pontus Hulten and Foksal Gallery in Warsaw on the occasion of the 50-years anniversary of the “a.r.” group. The collection has been continuously extended until today. Now it is shown in the ms2 – revitalized and renovated building of the 19th century weaving mill, opened to the public 20th November 2008. Muzeum Sztuki has found its new way to work with its collection and tradition. the change covers not only the location, but also the manner of presentation of the collection. the new layout replaces traditional chronological order with the order of 4 ideas – on one hand crucial for modern culture and on the other ones that are contained in the original collection from 1931. Therefore the exhibition divides the whole collection into four areas, described with triadic notions: “body, trauma, prosthesis”, “construction, utopia, politicization”, “eye, image, reality” and “object, fetish, phantasm”. As a result the works exhibited in the ms2 don’t represent any longer a given art movement, but they communicate messages important for the viewers today. the objective is still to refresh the potential accumulated in the work of art to enrich the viewer’s experience of the present reality, to create an ‘event’ in which the work of art, resonating with the thoughts and emotions of the viewer, is brought back to life. A former museum’s building, hosting the collection for 50 years, now called ms, is presently a venue for experimental work with contemporary art: temporary exhibitions, performances, workshops, screenings. But there’s still a link left with the Muzeum Sztuki tradition: a Neoplastic Room designed by Władysław Strzemiński in 1948 to serve as an exhibition space for “a.r.” group and constructivist artists. Now the works are exhibited in ms2 and the Neoplastic Room is a starting point for new projects developed in close relation to it by such artists like Daniel Buren or Liam Gillick. An avant-garde tradition is being still reintrpretated, discussed and this way – kept present.