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Alicja Knast. Photo: Sebastiaan ter Burg/Flickr.
Alicja Knast. Photo: Sebastiaan ter Burg/Flickr.

Polish Museum Director Forced Out by Local Right-Wing Government

Alicja Knast, who has helmed the Silesian Museum in Katowice, Poland, since 2014, was dismissed by the Silesian Province board, the local governmental body that runs the museum with the Ministry of Culture, on January 29. Knast, a veteran arts administrator who helped establish both the Fryderyk Chopin Museum and the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, was recently awarded the Gloria Artis Medal from deputy minister of culture Jarosław Sellin in honor of her contributions to Poland’s cultural sector.

Artnet News reports that Knast was fired following an audit of the institution’s finances, which flagged a number of problems, including “insufficient supervision” of the dismantling of exhibitions and failure to advertise rental rates for event spaces at the museum. Piotr Gliński, Poland’s culture minister, informed the Marshal’s Office of the Silesian Region, which carried out the audit, that the “irregularities revealed” were not enough to warrant firing Knast, but he ultimately let the Silesian Province board make the call.

According to the Polish newspaper Dziennik Zachodni, the Marshal’s Office almost dismissed Knast once before. She was informed that she would be removed from her post in late 2019. Knast says that the threat was made after she initially refused to let the far-right Law and Justice party reserve a space at the museum to host an event. When asked to elaborate on her reasoning for the refusal, she argued that political conventions should not be held in a public museum. Knast eventually caved to pressure from local lawmakers and allowed the event to proceed.