Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw is a public cultural institution brought into being by the ordinance from April 6, 2005, issued by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage.
Under the conditions of the contract, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Warsaw City Council share the responsibility for running the Museum. The contract was updated in 2012 and new updates are underway. While the Ministry sponsors and controls the current activities of the Museum, the city authorities provide it with the temporary quarters and execute the process of building its destination quarters, whose erection on the northern side of the Parade Square (in front of the Palace of Culture and Science) has already been planned.
THE MUSEUM ACTIVITY
The Museum has been operating in its current temporary quarters at 3 Pańska Street (neighboring the Palace of Culture and Science) since January 2008. The exhibitions, cultural and educational events as well as publications are a means of determining its future mission after moving to the new quarters in the Parade Square. The Museum engages in modern art research programs, gradually expanding its offer to the audiences. The focus is on visual arts, graphic design, industrial design, and architecture. The major goal of the Museum is to acquire a collection of artworks to be presented in the new building.
During the first five years of its activity, the Museum presented over thirty exhibitions, which were organized in its quarters and in other venues in Warsaw, all over Poland and abroad. At the turn of 2013, the Museum coorganized the first monographic exhibition entitled “Alina Szapocznikow. Sculpture Undone. 1955-1972” in the most prominent museum of modern art in the world – the New York MoMA.
Key to the developing Museum is the exhibition of its expanding collection called “In the Heart of the Country” (May 14, 2013 – January 6, 2014). It is on display in the Museum’s temporary quarters in the former furniture store Emilia at 51 Emilii Plater Street in Warsaw.
The following year another part of the Museum’s collection was shown in an exhibition called “In the Near Future”, presented simultaneously to the well-received “As You Can See” exhibition, which was a review of recent Polish art. In subsequent years the Museum organized exhibitions which were parts of wider research projects, based on historical sources and in cooperation with foreign curators and museums (such as “Andrzej Wróblewski: Recto / Verso. 1948-1949, 1956-1957”, “Maria Bartuszova, Provisional Forms”), as well as group exhibitions that served as commentary for current events and the challenges of the present day (such as “Private Settings. Art After the Internet” or “Lest the Two Seas Meet”).
Since 2009, at end of October and beginning of November each year, the Museum hosts the Warsaw Under Construction city design festival. Each edition focuses on a different set of architecture and urban planning issues. Since 2013 it has been organized in collaboration with the Museum of Warsaw.
Exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw are accompanied by an educational program, which usually includes series of lectures, debates and seminars. Those events fill the Open Museum program, and its subsequent editions provide a commentary on the particular exhibitions. Alongside that, the education department offers a wide array of activities for kids and teenagers, popular among individual visitors as well as institutions such as schools and universities from Warsaw and from other parts of the country.
THE HISTORY OF THE MUSEUM
The Museum was created thanks to an agreement between Waldermar Dąbrowski, Minister of Culture at that time, and the late Lech Kaczyński, former President of the Capital City of Warsaw. The intention was to confirm Poland’s aspirations to accelerate modernization triggered by its position as a new EU member, by a fast erection of the new Museum building. The first architectural contest aimed at selecting an architectural project for the Museum building was announced on December 15, 2005. However, due to excessive formal requirements on the partakers, the international jury protested against its regulations and it was cancelled.
After the regulations were simplified, the contest was announced again on July 27, 2006 by the acting president of the Capital City of Warsaw, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz. The winner, who beat the other 108 submitted projects, was the Swiss architect Christian Kerez. His triumph was announced during a ceremony on February 18, 2007. The minimalistic, monumental concept of this artist from Zurich met with criticism of the Museum project director, Tadeusz Zielniewicz, who resigned from his position along with the Program Board.
The new director, Joanna Mytkowska, was appointed on 6 June 2007. Joanna Mytkowska is an art historian who at the time of her appointment worked as a curator at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
On April 12, 2008, President of the Capital City of Warsaw, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, signed a contract with Christian Kerez for the Museum building project. The building was supposed to be finalized before 2012. During the preparatory works related to the project, Warsaw authorities introduced a change to the original idea of the building, by adding extra space to accommodate Grzegorz Jarzyna’s TR Warszawa theater (previously known as the Variety Theater). In a mood of mutual accusations resulting from this change, Warsaw City Council authorities terminated the agreement, whereby Christian Kerez’s project was rejected.
However, President Hanna Gronkiewicz Waltz and Minister of Culture Bogdan Zdrojewski have declared to stand by the plan to build the Museum new quarters. Work in preparation of the new project has been in progress since the fall of 2012. Because of this delay, Warsaw authorities have rented the former furniture store Emilia (neighboring the hitherto location) for four years, to provide a temporary seat for the Museum.
On October 12, 2012, the Museum was finally inaugurated. The temporary quarters occupy 4300 square meters. The opening exhibition is called “City for Sale. The History, Present and Future of Advertisement in the Streets of Warsaw”. In its first two months on display, it was visited by 28231 viewers.
In 2013 the procedure of selecting an architect to create a new design for the site of the Museum of Modern Art and TR theater began, this time by means of a negotiated procedure. A legal and factual analysis of the applications was performed before the end of the year. Initial bids were made in the first half of 2014, and final bids were prepared in June. In July it was announced that the site of the two institutions would be designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners, an architecture firm based in New York.
In the summer of 2015, after signing the contract and presenting the initial concept, the final design of the two buildings on Plac Defilad was presented to the public. The Museum of Modern Art building is to be completed in the spring of 2021.