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The National Museum in Krakow. Photo: Marcin Zieliński.

Polish Artists Urge National Museum to Mount Show Against Rising Nationalism

Around five hundred Polish artists, art historians, and curators have signed an open letter addressed to the directors of the National Museum in Kraków imploring the museum to stage a major international exhibition to confront the country’s surging right-wing nationalism, reports Julia Michalska of the Art Newspaper. The proposed show would be organized by an international team of curators and would emphasize how artists have dealt with fascism and xenophobic violence in their work.  

“In the context of the brutal contempt demonstrated towards minorities (whether ethnic, political, ideological, or sexual), and with the creeping spread of the low-level insensitivity to violence inculcated by this xenophobia and nationalism—the National Museum in Krakow has an important mission to fulfill,” the group wrote. “It has a chance to play an important role in educating Polish society.”

Since 2015, when the populist Law and Justice party, or PiS, came to power, Poland’s government has been criticized by Western leaders for its overhaul of the judicial system, its censoring of state press, and the president’s support of a law criminalizing any mention of Poland’s complicity in the Holocaust. Last November, sixty thousand demonstrators participated in a march in Warsaw celebrating Polish independence that became a rally for xenophobia, with people gathering under racist slogans and chanting for refugees to leave the country.

“The ostensible neutrality adopted by Polish museums and universities is in fact deeply political,” reads the letter, which is addressed to directors Andrzej Betlej and Andrzej Szczerski. “By remaining silent they are actually supporting these dangerous trends, or at the very least avoiding taking an unequivocal stance against them.”

The National Museum in Krakow has invited the signatories—which include Joanna Mytkowska, the director of Warsaw's Museum of Modern Art—to submit an official exhibition proposal.

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