TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT November 2007

TOP TEN

Paweł Althamer

This past year Paweł Althamer had solo exhibitions at Fondazione Nicola Trussardi in Milan and Galerie Neugerriemschneider in Berlin, and he participated in Skulptur Projekte Münster. He lives and works in Warsaw.

  1. THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY STADIUM IN WARSAW

    Built in 1955 as a sports facility, this structure first served as the primary venue for Communist festivities and exemplifies the outstanding architecture executed to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Polish People’s Republic, when the city hosted the Fifth World Festival of Youth and Students. During the emerging capitalist economy at the century’s end, however, the stadium, by then dilapidated, was converted into a bazaar and soon became one of the largest in the world. Teeming with life, it now features an exceptional mix of black-market and pirated goods and sellers ranging from illegal immigrants to small-business tycoons from post-Soviet countries, Vietnam, and Africa. But soon, the government’s “revitalization” efforts will return the stadium to its original athletic function—so that it may hold the upcoming football championship, Euro 2012—thus bringing an end to this vibrant microcosm of Central European life after the cold war.

    Vendor at Tenth Anniversary Stadium bazaar, Warsaw, 1997. Photo: Magnum/Richard Kalvar. Vendor at Tenth Anniversary Stadium bazaar, Warsaw, 1997. Photo: Magnum/Richard Kalvar.
  2. FAMILY ALLOTMENTS

    These small gardens, which originated during the Communist era, can be found in every Polish city: plots of land created to provide safe havens for the country’s workers, giving them the opportunity to farm in their downtime and to participate in a miniature community and neighborhood model. Now, showing a marked shift from state to private ownership, the parcels are freely traded; in fact, I recently bought one myself for when my family and I wish to escape the city.

    Family allotment garden, Skwierzyna, Poland, 2007. Photo: Simon Haines Family allotment garden, Skwierzyna, Poland, 2007. Photo: Simon Haines
  3. OSKAR HANSEN (1922–2005)

    The recent death of Oskar Hansen—student of architect and furniture designer Pierre Jeanneret, member of Team 10 (an architecture collective formed in the 1950s that focuses on questions of modernization and consumer society), and long-term lecturer at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts—marked the end of an era. His utopian projects were based on his “open form” concept, which advocated architecture as an open-ended process. Though most of his works remain unrealized, ideas such as his comprehensive solution to overpopulation (to him the most pressing of the “great number” problems, or those inherent to modernism), which called for the construction of linear cities with alternating “servicing” and “serviced” zones, have been recently reassessed in academic journals. I had the opportunity to work with him on his last exhibition, “Warsaw Dream,” and to visit the incredible house he designed and built for himself and his wife, Zofia (in Szumin, near Warsaw)—one of the handful of projects that was actually completed. I think of him often.

    Interior of Oskar Hansen’s house, Szumin, Poland. Photo: Jan Smaga and Aneta Grzeszykowska. Interior of Oskar Hansen’s house, Szumin, Poland. Photo: Jan Smaga and Aneta Grzeszykowska.
  4. WARSAW MUSEUM OF MODERN ART

    I was on the jury to choose the architect of this new museum, and I’m happy to say that the project I voted for, by Christian Kerez, not only won but also sparked a debate on the very role and character of cultural institutions in Poland. With modest, light architecture and an undulating roof, Kerez’s structure—which will be erected in the immediate vicinity of both the city’s most visible landmark, the Palace of Culture and Science (a gift from Stalin), and a large complex of shopping malls from the ’60s—seems to be a slick, minimalist solution to the problem of reconciling art with surroundings that are already imbued with meaning. I’m convinced that Joanna Mytkowska, the museum’s new director and a friend of mine, will manage to make equally brilliant exhibitions inside the building.

  5. WYSOWA

    Although its glory days have long passed, Wysowa—a tiny, sequestered spa with only seven hundred inhabitants in the Ropa river valley in southeastern Poland—has never been a star on the map of resorts. A pump room in a large park, two restaurants, and a mixture of rural architecture with a handful of spa buildings all make for a remote refuge with a magical aura and a pace of life that is restful but never too laid-back.

  6. HUTSUL TAPESTRIES

    Woven in the Ukrainian city of Kosiv by Hutsuls, a group of highlanders in the Carpathian Mountains, these geometrically patterned carpets have amazingly found their way into trading stalls along Warsaw’s “high street,” Nowy Swiat, and are a fascinating trace of a remote culture. Made from wool and hemp fiber, the tapestries feature a colorful blend of elements characteristic of the different migratory tribes that make up the Kosiv populace.

  7. NOWOLIPIE GROUP

    For the past thirteen years, I have held weekly sculpture workshops in a community center in Muranów, a neighborhood of Warsaw, with a group of patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. Together we have developed more than a few artworks, and we have a number of ideas concerning collaboration in general. Two years ago we made a series of sculptures of Doppeldecker planes, and now we are preparing to fly a real one.

    Paweł Althamer (front row, right) with Nowolipie Group, Warsaw, 2007. Photo: Paweł Althamer. Paweł Althamer (front row, right) with Nowolipie Group, Warsaw, 2007. Photo: Paweł Althamer.
  8. KAMPINOS FOREST

    This large complex of marshy woodlands located some twenty miles west of Warsaw is a place of much inspiration for me. I often walk in the forest at night, and it has provided the setting for some of my works, from a project that featured a video of me disappearing naked into the woods to a piece realized with Grzegorz Kowalski, my Academy of Fine Arts professor, which recorded our experience on LSD. In the center of the forest there is a cemetery built to commemorate more than two thousand Polish and Jewish victims of the Second World War.

    Palmiry cemetery, Kampinos Forest, 2006. Photo: Renata and Marek Kosinki. Palmiry cemetery, Kampinos Forest, 2006. Photo: Renata and Marek Kosinki.
  9. KOSMA

    On April 14, 2007, Kosma Adam Althamer was born.

    Identification card for Kosma Adam Althamer. Identification card for Kosma Adam Althamer.
  10. MAREK SIEPRAWSKI (1968–)

    Sieprawski is a Polish prose writer whose Miasteczko z Ludzka Twarza (Little Town with a Human Face) (Lampa i Iskra Boza, 2002) tells the tale of a community that renounced the everyday troubles of capitalist economy and liberal democracy and made a nostalgic return to the all-too-recent past of the ancien régime. As this book shows, the work of memory is selective, and dreams can easily turn into nightmares.