Mala Gallery (the shortest history)

Marek Grygiel

WHEN twenty years ago the group of searching photographers from Zbigniew Dlubak's circle began to present their works in Mała Gallery (earlier used for commercial gallery), nobody was able to foresee that this gallery will be for the next two decades one of few places in Poland or even Europe presenting contemporary photography with such steadiness.

logo 'Malej Galerii'
'Mala Gallery' Logo

The exhibition "KWADRAT" ("SQUARE") of Janusz Bakowski opened on October 10th 1977 was the beginning of the very live activities. Those were the years when art already absorbed photography for good. Many prominent artists have begun to use consciously photographic techniques in their realizations. It was happening quite often that photography was not the dominating medium of art manifestations presented in the gallery. The reason for that was the increasing interest of artists in the newest art trends, their quest for alternative means of expression and sometimes their nearing to the verge of scandal or triviality. Andrzej Jorczak, who run the gallery for the first two years, included to the gallery's programme - according to his own taste and preferences - minimal, conceptual and neo-constructivist art. During this time the gallery became one of the important places for searchings that went far beyond the limits of officially understood art. The exhibitions of particular artists were then not the only form of the gallery's activity. There were numerous meetings, theoretical discussions, happenings and performances. The attitude of openness for various art forms has been present in the gallery all the time, but later its meaning was not so important like during late 70's.

The events of 80's, foundation of the Solidarity, martial law rule and stagnation present through the whole decade influenced the gallery only indirectly. There of course existed censorship, but the exhibitions presented in the Mala Gallery were not much of interest of officials. The gallery become one of a few places in Poland that integrated artists that did not want to identify themselves with the art of official state galleries or of places under auspices of the Church. Because of that the gallery attracted during the whole decade the quite coherent group of artists and sympathizers who were showing their work in this place regularly. After 1989 the gallery did not changed its art programme, nevertheless it widened the scope of its photographic presentations as a result of a new situation in contemporary art and occurrence of the post-modernist tendencies. Photography like no other medium was appropriated by the artists.

Now there is no particular trend that dominates over other currents. Photography used to be employed in so many ways by contemporary artists allows for unlimited possibilities of expression. This should ensure presentations of these expressions for maybe next twenty years - and that is my wish for the artists and sympathizers of contemporary art and myself.

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