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Jarosław Suchan. Photo: Muzeum Sztuki.
Jarosław Suchan. Photo: Muzeum Sztuki.

Jarosław Suchan Ousted from Poland’s Muzeum Sztuki

Interim director Jarosław Suchan on April 26 was forced from his post at the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, Poland. His replacement, Andrzej Biernacki, was selected by Jarosław Sellin, Poland’s deputy minister of culture and national heritage. Suchan, known for his promotion of Polish avant-garde artists and for his connections to the international art world, had led the institution since 2006. Biernacki, an artist whose work hews closely to the style of Francis Bacon, has since 1991 run the private Browarna Gallery in Łowicz, a town of about 28,000 halfway between Warsaw and Łódź.

“I am not going to get rid of the conceptual art that was acquired for the collection and is exhibited,” Biernacki told Polish news site Wyborcza. “But I intend to diversify the [work on] offer, introduce other narratives. No one said that you should only deal with pro-environmental, gender or queer art that is promoted by the Western cultural institutions.” Biernacki went on to outline his intention to turn away from collecting the work of international artists and instead to focus on that by Polish artists, specifically those from Łódź. Suchan, by contrast, during his tenure as director established relationships with the Museum of Modern Art in New York and with the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, organizing a major retrospective of the work of Katarzyna Kobro and Władysław Strzemiński that began at the Reina Sofía and traveled to the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He additionally established the MS2 branch of Muzeum Sztuki in the city’s revitalized Manufaktura district and oversaw the renovation of M1, home to the museum’s famed Neoplastic Room and host of exhibitions of contemporary and modern art, and the restoration of M3, in the Herbst Palace, where the museum’s old masters are displayed.

The overnight change in leadership—Sellin nominated Biernacki for the role on April 25—outraged many in the Polish arts community. “I am shocked by this decision,” said Małgorzata Ludwisiak, chief curator at NOMUS Art Museum in Gdańsk. Ludwisiak, a former director of the Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, was previously deputy director of Muzeum Sztuki. “The change from a highly competent world-class specialist who made Muzeum Sztuki the second MoMA into a man who runs a private gallery in Łowicz is hardly rational.”

Though the swiftness of Suchan’s downfall was shocking, his ousting was not entirely unexpected, having been telegraphed in December 2021, when the Ministry of Art and Culture led by Piotr Gliński declined to renew his contract as director, instead offering him the post of acting director, with a contract of one year. “I thought that I would be informed in advance,” Suchan said ruefully, “and in the meantime it happened overnight.” Should a competition open for the permanent position, Suchan said he has no interest in applying. “I've been living in uncertainty since the middle of last year,” he noted, adding flatly, “I’m fed up.”