How the history of contemporary art in Middle Europe developed …
In this tab, we collect art facts about the development of contemporary art in Middle Europe. The arrangement of entries is chronological. Primary categorization is done in historical order. Thus, it reflects the dynamics of art development. We do not categorize events here, starting with countries or regions or the names of individual artists. However, the nationality of the artist and the place of the event are marked in each entry.
Based on the methodological assumptions (see the Methodology tab), we want to, first of all, publish events that, on the basis of historical analyzes made by art historians, will be identified as key, most radical or exceptional. The selection of such events can be supplemented, for example, by links leading to already existing sites containing such a timeline of places or artists.
We encourage you to share your knowledge with us and contribute as the authors of the Middle Europe timeline.
Szeroko i ikonki
Szeroko – inny rozmiar
Szeroko – inny rozmiar
Szeroko – inny rozmiar
- Krzysztofory Gallery, Krakow, a gallery of the Krakow Group, was founded in the basement of the Krzsztofory Palace, the location of The Museum of Krakow. It was the so-called the second group, a continuation of the pre-war group of avant-garde artists under the same name. It was the place of the Cricot2 theater (Cricot was the theater of the first Krakow Group, a puppet theater or a marionette). In 2003, the last collective exhibition of the Krakow Group with the participation of its living members took place in Krzysztofory with participation of Jerzy Bereś, Julian Jończyk, Jerzy Kałucki, Maria Stangret-Kantor, Janina Kraupe-Świderska, Jan Pamuła, Karol Pustelnik, Janusz Tarabuła, Jan Tarasin, Danuta Urbanowicz, Witold Urbanowicz, Zbigniew Warpechowski, Marian Warzecha and Jerzy Wroński. The death of Jerzy Bereś in 2012, who was the informal leader of the group after Tadeusz Kantor (died 1990), can be considered the end of the activity of the Krakow Group. The gallery space was rebuilt in 2017-2020 and lost its original character.
The context of the creation of the Krakow Group: the return of contemporary artists to public activity after the period of Stalinism prohibiting artistic activity of this kind.
- First happenings by Tadeusz Kantor, Cricotage and Linia podziału / Dividing Line (Warsaw and Krakow).
- Foksal Gallery, Warsaw, was founded on the initiative of Tadeusz Kantor and a group of art critics (Wiesław Borowski, Anka Ptaszkowska and Mariusz Tchorek). The gallery functions in the same place until today. However, the ‘artistic patronage’ and symbolic relationship with the pre-war avant-garde was held by Henryk Stażewski, a painter of geometric abstraction, a member of abstract artists groups Cercle et Carré i Abstraction-Création. The gallery was important for building international relations and it was a link with world art, especially of conceptual provenance, above the Iron Curtain.
- First action by Jerzy Bereś, Prediction I and II, Foksal Gallery, repeated in the Krzysztofory Gallery. He called his live art works a ‘Manifestations’.
- First meeting of artist run galleries and the first manifestation of building an AIR movement as an un-official art institution. 8 galleries and 5 Salon of Debutants participated. OdNowa Gallery, Poznan, operated 1964-1969 in the students’ club.
- Symposium Wroclaw ’70. A large-scale event with a huge impact on Polish contemporary art, the foundations for conceptual art. Over 50 artists and 12 critics only from Poland participated. Types of works presented: works-projects, mostly not-to-be-realized, utopian interventions in urban space, models for monumental spatial realizations and abstract city sculptures. Only five projects were realized, and some of them later. Political context: promotion of culture on land that belonged to Germany before the war, which was granted to Poland by the Yalta pact. New urban design of the city destroyed during the war.
- Permafo Gallery, Wroclaw, was founded. It was operated 1970–1981 (until Martial Law). The first conceptual gallery. Numerous galleries of this type created a wide gallery movement in the seventies. Its foundation was a consequence of the Symposium Wrocław ’70. A gallery at a local artists’ club, where the exhibition space functioned on a hit and run basis, assembled of panels for each exhibition. However, it created an influential milieu. Types of works presented: new media, photography and film as artistic means of conceptual art. Artists: group leader Andrzej Lachowicz, and Natalia LL, Zbigniew Dłubak; art critic Antoni Dzieduszycki. Artistic assumptions based on Andrzej Lachowicz idea of “permanent photography”, hence perma (nent) fo (to). Creation as a continuous process of recording (documenting) the whole surrounding reality, non-stop without taking the camera off the eye. Permafo also published art-zine under the same name in the years 1972–1980.
- Film Form Workshop, Lodz, was founded. It was operated 1970-1977. Established by students of the cinematography department of the Lodz Film School (PWSFTviT in Łodz). The leader was Józef Robakowski and the founding members were: Wojciech Bruszewski, Paweł Kwiek, Andrzej Różycki, Zbigniew Rybczyński, Ryszard Waśko, Janusz Połom, and Antoni Mikołajczyk. The Film Form Workshop created a broad and influential environment. They dealt with experimental film and photography. Next to Permafo, the second group that introduces conceptual art in Poland based on new media. Numerous tautological conceptual works, performance to photography (film). Media as a form of art presentation. Meta-media considerations. Strongly emphasized difference to the film narrative, metaphor, post-romantic symbolism. Image (documentation) as a representation of a relationship with reality, based on presence. That’s the difference with Permafo. A film about art developed as a film genre. After 1977, members undertook individual careers.
- Tak / Yes Gallery by Leszek Przyjemski was founded. One of the most radical forms of the gallery as a work of art. Yes Gallery is the logo under which Leszek Przyjemski created his art. The name is an emulation of the prerogatives of the authorities in a totalitarian state, i.e. approving (or not) the activities of artists. The author of the gallery does the same – approves (says yes) to various artistic activities. The Yes Gallery existed as an idea and a poster with a manifesto. He founded the Museum of Hysterics, believing that the world is mentally ill and only a madman can adapt to it. He has done numerous actions, interventions and regime-critical works. He was forced to emigrate. Today he lives and works in Germany.
- NET initiative by Jarosław Kozłowski (artist) and Andrzej Kostołowski (critic) was founded. It consisted of sending a manifesto-letter entitled NET to artists in Poland and abroad (in relation to mail art and Fluxus). Since 1975 Flash Art began publishing its Art Diary mailing list. NET integrated ARI activity and transformed it into movement (network) and expanded such organizational activity as a recognized artistic practice, in line with the idea of conceptual art.
- Were founded: Pi Gallery, Krakow (by Maria Anna Potocka, in her private apartment), Adres Gallery, Lodz (by Ewa Partum, first in the artists’ club then in her private apartment), 80×140 Gallery, Lodz (by Jerzy Treliński together with Andrzej Pierzgalski, in the artists’ club) which was the most radical gallery, existed on the board of these size, and in which has been nested A4 Gallery by Andrzej Pierzgalski of the size of a shit of paper.
- Zbigniew Warpechowski begins to create pieces of performance art based on the principles of conceptualism. He continued this style of making performance art in numerous works until the mid-nineties.
- Przegląd dokumentacji Galerii Niezależnych / Documentation Review of the Independent Galleries, Repassage Gallery, Warsaw (in the University of Warsaw student’s club). 19 galleries took part.
- Dead Class by Tadeusz Kantor was staged.
- Jan Świdziński and Contextual Art emerged, publication of the manifesto Art as Contextual Art (in English) by Remont Gallery, Warsaw. Exhibition under the title Contextual Art in St. Petri Gallery, run by Jean Sellem in Lund. The follow-up was a conference on Contextual Art at the Center for Experimental Art and Comunication (CEAC) in Toronto. There he meets Joseph Kosuth, who presents the concept of Anthropologized Art. From then on, they respect each other. A transcript of the Toronto discussion was published in the Swidzinski’s book Quotations on Contextual Art, Eindhoven: Apollo Huis, 1987. Huge influence of Joseph Kosuth’s idea of conceptualism in Polish art.
- International conference entitled Art Activity in Context of Reality, Remont Gallery, Warsaw (in students’ club of Warsaw University of Technology), organized by Jan Świdziński. Jorge Glusberg was among the invited guests. Under the influence of relations with South American art (as well as Herve Fisher’s Sociological Art), Contextual Art took on a more socio-political, critical character.
- Działania lokalne / Local activities (art project in the countryside, Kurpie region), the organizers were Jan Świdziński and Recent Art Gallery, Wroclaw. Since then, contextual (anthropologised) practice was disseminated in Poland and numerous implementations took place (Lucim group, 1977; activities in Mielnik on the Bug river, 1981). His own contextual practice includes installations, objects and photographs, as well as conference lectures as forms of art, and from the mid-1980s, performance. The book Art, Society and Self-consciousness, Calgary: Alberta College of Art Gallery, 1979 (in English) is a summary of Contextual Art idea. Contextualism marked postmodern break in Polish contemporary art.
- CDN art festival in Warsaw, in the urban space (under the bridge over the Vistula river). 22 galleries and 6 groups were invited to participate.
- IAM (International Artists’ Meeting or I am), Remont Gallery, Warsaw. International performance art festival, the first major presentation of this art form (48 artists from abroad and 26 from Poland participated). Since then, the name has been fixed in the Polish discourse of contemporary art. The term ‘performance art’ is henceforth closely related to conceptualism and exclusively to visual arts (not a theater or dance practices). This event marks the moment when the independent, un-official art milieu is so strong that it is able to organize events and international exchanges on a large scale. This means that an alternative art institution to the official one has been established and is prospering.
- Body and Performance international festival of performance art at Labirynt Gallery, Lublin (festival smaller in terms of the number of participants then IAM). Its name points to the leading art practice of the time. It established the position of performance art as the leading practice of contemporary art in Poland. This festival was organized by Andrzej Mroczek, gallery director and curator-friend of many artists. Thanks to this, even in the Martial Law time, the Labirynt Gallery was the only one that was not boycotted. The gallery is functioning to this day and maintains its reputation.
- Exchange Gallery was founded by Józef Robakowski in his private apartment in Lodz. Extensive international contacts, archive, library, Infermental project (works distributed on vhs videotapes).
- Ewa Partum performed a piece entitled Change – My problem is a problem of a Woman, Art Forum Gallery, Lodz. The first public nude live performance by a woman in Polish art. It involved a professional make-up artist aging half of her body.
- 70 – 80. Nowe zjawiska w sztuce polskiej / 70-80. New Phenomena in Polish Art, Galeria BWA, Sopot. Summary of the decade of Conceptual Art. 35 galleries from Poland constituting the ARI movement were invited. This event marked a peak development of this movement. Organizers Józef Robakowski and Witosław Czerwonka. The reader containing statements and manifestos by artists and theoreticians representing the decade was published (only in Polish).
- Construction in Process (first edition), Lodz. International exhibition of art and realizations in urban space (there are in situ relations in the city to this day) as well as conceptual and post-conceptual art, a summary of the decade of Conceptual Art, international contacts, the relationship of conceptualism and new media. 54 artists from all over the world participated. The curator of the international part was Ryszard Waśko. A special part of Polish art was curated Antoni Mikołajczyk. Documentary film by Józef Robakowski. The exhibition was prepared by the Film Form Workshop milieu. The second edition was held in Munich in 1985 (46 artists). In 1990 Construction in Process returned to Łódź (96 artists). Also in Łódź, in 1993, the fourth edition of Construction in Process (150 artists) took place. In 1995, the fifth edition of Construction in Process took place in the Negev desert in Israel (no data). In 1998, the sixth edition took place in Melbourne (96 artists). In 2000, Construction in Process took place in Bydgoszcz and its vicinity (last edition), with 130 participating artists. The selection of participants is based on the personal relationships of the curator and the artists.
- IX Krakow Meetings, a annual event of local importance that this year had an international character and was a summary of the development of the conceptual and performance tendencies as well as international contacts. Curator Maria Pinińska-Bereś and art critic Andrzej Kostołowski (40 artists participated). The exhibition was closed by the authorities with the introduction of Martial Law. The catalog of this edition was published in 1995, then the next X Krakow Meetings took place. Curator Artur Tajber.
December 13, Martial Low in Poland. The end of the thaw lasting from August 1980, the establishment of Solidarity as a result of the strikes in the Gdansk Shipyard. Solidarność begins its activity in the underground.
- Dziekanka Gallery, Warsaw, located in a student dormitory, existed in the ARI gallery movement since 1972, and from 1979 to 1987 it was run jointly by Tomasz Sikorski and Jerzy Onuch. From 1983, a key period in the development of the tendency of new expression, referring to the paintings of Neue Wilde and Transavanguardia, begins in Poland, and Dziekanka Gallery plays a fundamental role in its creation and development. While gallery curators are associated with post-conceptual art, the gallery program included presentations by artists of both these trends. And the trends of expressionist painting was presented as post-conceptual art. Initially, historically, it was a one trend at the starting point. Painting presentations take the form of installations, objects and actions that were numerous and even dominant. Pictures and actions are aimed at critics of the surrounding reality, for which expressionist means are particularly suitable. Painting pictures was not an end in itself. Commercialization of this trend shifts the essence of this art to standard paintings on canvas. And it makes these initial artistic goals difficult to read today. As part of this trend, Gruppa group (1984) and Neue Bieriemiennost (Mirosław Bałka, Mirosław Filonik, Marek Kijewski, since March 8, 1986) were established at Dziekanka Gallery.
- Konger group was founded, Krakow (Artur Tajber, Władysław Kaźmierczak, Marcin Krzyżanowski, Marian Figiel). Collective performances (everyone does their own thing in one place and time), installations combined with live action. There were three Konger performances (two in 1984 and in 1985). Konger marked the beginning of the development of the post-conceptual tendency in Poland and its revival in new socio-political conditions. The art scene is being built by a new generation of artists who had no connection with post-war tendencies.
- I Biennale of New Art in Zielona Góra, BWA Gallery. Method of selecting artists: without a curator, but by a group of recognized persons in Polish art world. Over 70 artists only from Poland participated. One of the consequences was the establishment of the po / after Gallery in Zielona Góra (Wojciech Kozłowski and Leszek Krutulski), which was nested in BWA Gallery. The program od po Gallery is mostly installations and performances, but also new expression painting. Due to the scale of the biennial, it marks the return of artists to exhibiting in public institutions after the Martial Law.
- Wyspa / Island Gallery was founded, Gdansk, by Grzegorz Klaman, artist and Academic professor. Initially, it was an affiliated gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk, then the gallery moved to another locations in the Gdańsk Shipyard, which was largely closed during the economic crisis of the 1980s. Today, it still functions as Wyspa Progress Fundation and runs a large experimental art center in the private estate of Grzegorz Klaman on Sobieszewska Island, within the administrative boundaries of Gdansk. It organizes bio art, art and science projects, conducts artistc research, open-air workshops for students, and is the documentation center of Wyspa Gallery. The activity of Grzegorz Klaman as a curator and organizer, as well as a teacher, contributed significantly to the development of new trends in art in Gdansk, including new expressionist art (painterly installations, actions, objects). Grzegorz Klaman himself belonged to the generation of artists constituting the movement of new expression, but as a sculptor he used means of expression belonging to a medium other than painting, and thus he was closer to intermedia art.
- II Biennale of New Art in Zielona Góra. Selection of artists through the galleries of the ARI movement, those who survived the Martial Law and newly established (12 galleries plus the organizer’s selection presentation, BWA Gallery). The program consisted of presentations of each gallery and its artists. A large part of the painting was new expression, but presented not so much as pictures, but as painting objects, actions and installations. Young people dominate, the new generation. Gallery movement revives in the new generation.
- Lochy Manhattanu, Lodz, curator Józef Robakowski, exhibition with the subtitle “exhibition installation”, location in garages under the high-rise apartment complex in the center of Lodz. Large presentation of 42 artists. Many different forms of installation art were made, showing the various possibilities of this practice, which indicated this type of art as the dominant post-conceptual practice in Poland.
- WRO festival was found by Piotr Krajewski and Violetta Krajewska in Wroclaw. WRO – in short for Wizualne Realizacje Okołomuzyczne (music-related visual art realisations). International festival dedicated to new media, video, interactive installations, digital art, art and technology issue. Since 1995 operates as WRO Media Art Biennale. WRO introduced a wide spectrum of media art forms to Poland. It exists to this day. From 2006 in a new building.
June 4, the first free election in the Soviet bloc countries behind the Iron Curtain. The beginning of the end of the post-Yalta division of Europe. Earlier, from April 1988, strikes organized by Solidarity took place all over Poland in the conditions of a severe economic crisis, and street demonstrations turned into street fights. In January 1989, the authorities agreed to talks with Solidarity, which lasted until May and ended with an agreement and consent of the authorities to free election.
- Tadeusz Kantor died.
- Real Time – Story Telling, Sopot, BWA Gallery. A large-scale international performance art festival, curator Witosław Czerwonka, Józef Robakowski and Jan Świdziński. The first major presentation of the contemporary art trend after the period of Poland’s closure to foreign contacts during the Martial Law period and its consequences and the severe economic crisis in the 1980s.
- International performance art festival Zamek Wyobraźni / Castle of Imagination was established. Curator Władysław Kaźmierczak. At the beginning, the festival took place at the castle in Bytów, then at the city gallery in Słupsk and Ustka. Last edition in 2006 in Bröllin, Germany, and OFFicyna Gallery, Szczecin. A large-scale event. Revival of performance art as a leading practice on the contemporary art scene in Poland.
- The international festival Fort Sztuki was established in Krakow. Founder and originator Artur Tajber. Until 2005. The festival was held in a nineteenth-century fortification building, in a state of neglect. A wide introduction and consolidation of site specific installation forms, time based and place related practices, which were leading art forms in the the nineties, of various characteristics, combined with performance and media art.
- INTERACTIONS International Action Art Festival was founded in Piotrkow Trybunalski (near Lodz). Organized until today. Curators and originators: Ryszard Piegza (Paris) and Jan Świdziński.
- A new building for the museum of contemporary art in Lodz was opened as the Muzeum Sztuki / Art Museum / ms2. The Muzeum Sztuki (ms) is the first contemporary art museum in the world. It was opened in 1931 on the initiative of avant-garde artists Katarzyna Kobro and Władysław Strzemiński and housed the a.r. group collection of post-cubist, constructivist and neoplasticism works.
- A museum of contemporary art in Warsaw was opened in a temporary building. Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej / Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (MSN). The new building is still under construction. Previously, contemporary art was gathered by the National Museum in Warsaw and this collection is still there.
- A contemporary art center was opened in Torun. Center of Contemporary Art (COCA) in Torun. Has a collection of contemporary art.
- Museum of Contemporary Art Krakow (MOCAK) has been opened in Krakow. Previously, contemporary art was gathered by the National Museum in Krakow and this collection is still there.
- A museum of contemporary art has been opened in Wroclaw. Muzeum Współczesne Wrocław (MWW); eng.: Wroclaw Contemporary Museum. Previously, contemporary art was gathered by the National Museum in Wroclaw and this collection is still there.
- Jerzy Bereś died.
- Jan Świdziński died.
- Cricoteka, the museum and archive of Tadeusz Kantor was opened in Krakow.
- Archive of the Exchange Gallery has been donated to the art museum in Warsaw (MSN).
- Archive of the Krakow Group has been donated to the art museum in Krakow (MOCAK).
- A museum of contemporary art has been opened in Gdansk. Nowe Muzeum Sztuki w Gdańsku / New Art Museum (NOMUS).
- Archive of the Construction in Process has been donated to the art museum in Warsaw (MSN).
Compiled by Lukasz Guzek
- The international exhibition of surrealism, Le surréalisme en 1947, was held in the Maeght Gallery in Paris. It was visited by the upcoming generation of artists (Mikuláš Medek, Zbyněk Sekal, Zdeněk Palcr and others) during their trip with UMPRUM. The exhibition was repeated in a reduced form in the Topič’s Salon in Prague at the end of the same year.
- February 12 – May 25, the Communist coup, also known as the Victorious February, took place in the Czechoslovak Republic.
- Political trials began in Hungary (Cardinal Mindszenty) and they also affected Czechoslovak representatives (Rudolf and others). The magazine Tvar (until 1971) started publication in Czechoslovakia. Vladimír Boudník published the Manifesto of Explosionalism.
- At the end of May the political trial of Milada Horáková started.
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, as well as Klement Gottwald in the Czechoslovak Republic, died.
- The Warsaw Pact was formed by the Eastern block countries. May 1, 1955 Stalin’s monument was unveiled at Letná in Prague under the slogan “To our liberator from the Czechoslovak people” (it was designed by the sculptor Otakar Švec who committed suicide shortly before it was unveiled).
June 29, a strike in Stalin factories in Poznań turned into a political uprising against Communist rule in Poland. In response, demonstrations were also organized in Budapest.
October 4, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the Earth’s first artificial satellite, into orbit.
- Unofficial exhibitions titled Confrontation (I and II: Zdenek Beran, Vladimír Boudník, Cestmír Janošek, Jan Koblasa, Antonín Málek, Jiří Valenta, Aleš Veselý, Antonín Tomalík; II: V. Křížek, Zbyšek Sion, Karel Kuklík a Jirí Putta) were held in Jiří Valenta’s studio in March and in Aleš Veselý’s studio in October of the same year.
- The programme exhibition D in the New Hall in Prague showed the great variety of informal expression in the Czech environment (Jiří Balcar, Vladimír Boudník, Josef Istler, Cestmír Janošek, Jan Koblasa, Mikuláš Medek, Nepraš Nepraš, Robert Piesen, Zbyněk Sekal, Jiří Valenta. Aleš Veselý). Veselý exhibited his object The Chair Usurper which was awarded the Critics’ Prize at the 4th Biennial of Young Artists in Paris.
- First editions of symposium of spatial forms were held in Ostrava.
August 20, around 11:00 p.m., the Warsaw Pact armies crossed the borders of the Czechoslovak Socialistic Republic and put the Prague Spring democratization process to an end; it was followed by one of the largest waves of emigration in Czechoslovak history.
January 16, Jan Palach self-immolation in Wenceslas Square in Prague in protest at the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia.
February 25, Jan Zajíc, following the example of Jan Palach, burned himself to death in Wenceslas Square in Prague on the anniversary of the Communist Revolution in Czechoslovakia.
April 4, Evžen Plocek burned himself to death in protest at the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia and became the imaginary third torch.
- Second edition of symposium of spatial forms were held in Ostrava.
- Normalisation, consolidation; a period in which the democratization process of the Czechoslovak Socialistic Republic was frozen and the pro-Soviet regime restored. “Order has been established. At the price of a paralysis of the spirit, a deadening of the heart and the devastation of life. Consolidation has been achieved. At the price of a spiritual and moral crisis in society.” Václav Havel.
- The Publishing House ’68 Publishers was established by Zdena Salivarová-Škvorecká and her husband Josef Škvorecký in Toronto, Canada.
- May 31, inspections of library stocks in the ČSSR for the purpose of eliminating all publications with subversive and pro-Western political and ideological contents. Ludvík Vaculík established the samizdat Edition Padlock (Petlice) in Prague. Rostislav Valušek, Petr Mikeš and Eduard Zacha published the first samizdat edition under the title Friends’ Texts in Olomouc, even before Vaculík.
- September 21, the Ještěd television transmitter including a hotel and a restaurant, all designed by Karel Hubáček, was ceremonially opened; it has been a cultural monument since 2005.
- July 30–August 1, the Final Act of the CSCE (Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe) was signed in Helsinki by the representatives of 35 states. Besides security in Europe and cooperation in the fields of economy, science, technology and the environment, it also dealt with humanitarian issues, in particular respect for human rights. According to international law the entire document was not binding and could not be enforced. Representatives of Communist countries understood the confirmation of the validity of agreements on civil and human rights to be mere proclamations without any practical consequences and tried to disparage and misinterpret them. However, the proclamations of countries vowing to observe human rights resulted in the establishment of groups which were required to actually observe them in individual countries. For example Charter 77 with Václav Havel as a leader was established in Czechoslovakia (1977), and Solidarity in Poland (1980) with the leadership of Lech Wałęsa.
- February 21, the second festival of the second culture in Bojanovice was held as a delayed wedding party for Ivan Jirous and Juliana Stritzková and was an impetus for massive arrests of members of the underground. All the members of the band The Plastic People of the Universe and a number of other followers of the underground ended up in custody. The trial of the band members aroused great sympathy among nonconformist Czech intellectuals (writers, reformed Communists from 1968, musicians, Catholics) and gave rise to the idea of writing a petition alleging a violation of human rights (Declaration of Charter 77 from January1, 1977).
- January 6-7, the Declaration of Charter 77 was published; it aimed to make representations to the representatives of the Communist regime concerning the violation of their own legislation, and it also aimed to document and reveal discrimination. The Chartists were interrogated by the State Police – house searches, bullying, police summons. Contacts with Polish dissidents were established.
- January 12, the regime feared that many people of the ČSR would join Charter 77 and so it launched a massive media campaign in order to frighten people. This culminated in the massive signing of an anti-Charter in the National Theatre on January 28.
Krakow archbishop, Karol Wojtyla, was elected the new Pope of Rome and took the name John Paul II. He became an icon for the Polish anticommunist resistance and, at the same time, the first non-Italian Pope since 1522.
August 14, Lech Wałęsa organized a strike in the Gdańsk Shipyards in Poland which resulted in the establishment of the independent trade union Solidarity on August 31.
- May, the first of a series of private Confrontations of Contemporary Artists was held in Jiří David’s studio; six editions were held until 1987, always in different places.
- Stubborn Ones group (Jiří David, Stanislav Diviš, Michal Gabriel, Zdeněk Lhotský, Stefan Milkov, Petr Nikl, Jaroslav Róna, František Skála, Čestmír Suška, Václav Marhoul) was established.
Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia.
- January 15, Palach’s Week: the 20th anniversary of the death of the student Jan Palach was marked by a demonstration on Wenceslas Square. There was a brutal police response and many demonstrators were arrested. There was a response from the international press and protests by famous personalities and international organizations.
- November 9, fall of the Berlin Wall.
- November 17, the officially permitted student manifestation on the 50th anniversary of the death of the student Jan Opletal at Albertov in Prague turned into a spontaneous procession of people who expressed their discontent with the regime. The procession was stopped at the National Avenue in Prague by the brutal action of the State Police during which hundreds of people were injured. There was an immediate response: a protest strike by University and college students and people from the theatre.
- November 20-25, demonstrations were held on the Wenceslas Square, increasing pressure on the regime; demonstrations also spread to other Bohemian and Moravian towns.
- November 27, a warning of general strike was held which became the climax of the Velvet Revolution.
- December 23, end of the Iron Curtain: Ministers of Foreign Affairs Jiří Dienstbier and Hans-Dietrich Genscher (Federal Republic of Germany) cut the barbed wire on the borders between Czechoslovakia and Germany.
- December 29, Václav Havel was elected the first post-Revolutionary President.
- January 8, Milan Knížák became the rector (chancellor) of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (1990-1997).
- February 26, the agreement on the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the Czechoslovak territory was signed between the ČSSR and SSSR.
- May 27, the Jindřich Chalupecký Award for young Czech fine artists aged less than 35 was established by Václav Havel, Jiří Kolář and Theodor Pištěk.
- On the night between the April 27/28, David Černý and his friends painted pink the Monument to Soviet Tank Crews on the Štefánikovo Square, Smíchov, Prague.
- January 1, dissolution of the Czechoslovak Federative Republic into the independent Czech Republic and Slovak Republic.
- January 1, the Gallery of Fine Arts in Olomouc was renamed as the Olomouc Museum of Art and it started its exhibition activity on Denisova Street.
- November 1, the European Union was established based on the Maastricht Treaty.
- January 1, Rudolfinum Gallery started its operation.
- The Rafani group was established. The founding members were: Radim Kořínek, Marek Meduna, Petr Motejzík and Luděk Rathouský. David Černý installed ten laminated statues of “Babies” at the Žižkov Television Tower within the programme Prague – European City of Culture of 2000.
- Czech Republic decided in a referendum to join the European Union and did so on May1, 2004.
- March 20, the list of State Police collaborators with about 75,000 names was published.
Czech Republic became a member of the Schengen Area.
Compiled by Štěpánka Bieleszová
- July 1, Slovak National Council decided to establish the Slovak National Gallery (SNG) in Bratislava. The first exhibition was the Exhibition of old masters paintings from the collections of SNG (1949).
- Foundation of the journal Výtvarný život (Art Life) by the Association of Slovak Fine Artists and the Association of Slovak Architects, which was published in Slovakia until 1995.
- After some release in 1956, censorship was sharpened again. From December 19 to 20 there was a meeting of the Association of Slovak Writers in Bratislava, which signed up for the “ideologicality of literature,” which was assessed as a great success by the management of the KSČ (Comunistic Party of Czechoslovakia). A similar position was adopted at its meeting on June 9-11, 1959 by the extraordinary Congress of Socialist Culture. / Jan Rychlík
- In Bratislava, the Galéria Mladých (Gallery of Young) was established, later renamed on the Cyprian Majerník Gallery, presented the work of a young generation of fine artists. The gallery in the city centre was managed by the Slovak Central Committee of the Socialist Union of Youth in Bratislava (SÚV SZM).
- December 1, the first public presentation of the Mikuláš Galanda Group in the exhibition room of the Regional Forest Administration in Žilina marked an emergence of a young incoming generation of artists who rejected the dogmas of Socialist Realism by returning to the principles of modern art and the domestic pre-war avant-garde tradition (Mikuláš Galanda, Ľudovít Fulla, Miloš Alexander Bazovský and Cyprian Majerník).
- Establishment of an informal association of artists called Confrontations, devoted to structural abstraction and Informel. Initially, they presented their works at the non-public group exhibitions in studios and apartments, later in the official galleries (R. Fila, M. Čunderlík, E. Ovčáček, M. Urbásek, J. Jankovič, J. Kočiš, P. Maňka, A. Rudavský, M. and others).
- The first manifest of Milan Dobeš was published in the journal Výtvarná práce (Art Work), in which he captured his main program principles of geometric, light and kinetic abstract art: “The basic means of expression for me is light and movement. To monitor continuously light and movement in time and the emerging emotional artistic experiences arbitrarily repeat create the possibility of another creative means – space-time… I am now working on the designs of the environment – dwelling (environment), where the perception of the viewer is attacked by the whole interior, provoking the atmosphere and the required tension in it.“
- In November, Ladislav Mňačko book Oneskorené reportáže (Delayed Reports) was published in a huge expense. The author mapped out some fabricated cases at a lower level in the 1950s, as well as efforts to rehabilitate the disabled. The book is composed of eleven short novels, each of which is a shaking story about how state power, represented by party officials, was able to enter people’s lives and often destroy them completely. It belongs to the most important prosaic works in Slovak literature and in 1963 in a sense it opened a new stage of Slovak literature. The publishing house of political literature made two prints immediately after the first edition. The total circulation of the book was 103,420 copies.
- March, Vladimír Popovič carried out the action Launching the Boat in Petržalka district by the Danube river, as the end of his solo exhibition in the Galéria Mladých (Gallery of Young) in Bratislava, for a small circle of friends and without wider publicity: “Participants launched (according to his description and photographs) into the stream of Danube a large enlargement of the paper boat.” (after art historian Radislav Matuštík).
- Peter Bartoš realized action Handing out, semi-optional for a circle of friends. The author called the presenters to select from his academic papers from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava (on Gorazdova Street), ant thus breaking with the academy, tradition and painting.
- Alex Mlynárčik, Stano Filko and art historian Zita Kostrová prepared the Manifesto HAPPSOC, signed on May 1, 1965. It was created as a theoretical component for the first of the series of conceptual projects Happsoc I and Happsoc II by artists Stano Filko and Alex Mlynárčik. It belongs to the key projects of conceptual art in Slovakia, based on the appropriation of the found reality (of capital Bratislava), planned for seven days from May 1 (Labor Day) to May 9 (anniversary of the liberation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops in 1945). Happsoc I pointed to Bratislava in the form of a text announcement (7 days of the fact of Bratislava), real and fictitious statistics on the realities and inhabitants of the city (1 castle, 1 Danube, 142 090 street lamps, 128 729 television antennas, 6 cemeteries, 138 936 women, 128 727 men, 49 991 dogs etc.). For the first time in the history of Slovak art, it was a conscious renunciation of artistic materialization, the project was realized in the form of an invitation calling on the audience to participate mentally (after art historian, critic and curator Jana Geržová).
- The ‘zero year’ of so-called presymposium, International Sculpture Symposium in Vyšné Ružbachy, on which sculptors from all over the world worked with travertine. The symposiums took place in the travertine quarry and were carried out during the summer months until the 1990s. The initiative followed similar symposia founded and led by the Austrian sculptor Karl Prantl, and he also participated in the first, introductory year in Vyšné Ružbachy.
- The ‘zero year’ of the International Symposium in Metal steel plant in Košice, organized in cooperation with eastern Slovak ironworks. The ambition of the project was to place modern sculptures in nature and urban spaces, inviting important artists from all over the world. The last year took place in 1973.
- Since 1967, tours under the name Socha Piešťanských Parkov (The Sculptures of Piešťany Parks) have been held regularly during the summer months. The beginning of a strong tradition of presentations of sculptural art in natural and urban surroundings, meant a radical ‘step out’ of the sculpture from the interior of the galleries to the exterior, the spa town of Piešťany, with its vast park and water areas of the Spa Island, provided the sculptures with an ideal space, one of the initiators of the idea of Piešťany plein-air exhibitions was the sculptor Alexander Trizuljak.
March 4, the Presidency of the KSČ decides to provisionally abolish censorship. In Czechoslovakia, there was complete freedom of the press and expression, which exceeding the limits of other socialist states and even the situation in the first Czechoslovak Republic (opinion aftrer historian Jan Rychlík).
- Július Koller together with Peter Bartoš created the concept of Anti-gallery in the interpretation of the fast-repair stockings shop on Klobučnícka Street in Bratislava, in which between advertising and goods they exhibited their paintings. Koller’s anti-paintings significantly ironizing the work with the object and with painting of paintings-apartment accessories. The Anti-gallery only existed until 1969, when its initiators were forced to close this ‘exhibition space.’
September, beginning of normalization in Czechoslovakia. Restoration of censorship (new Office for Press and Information was established for this purpos), restriction on freedom of press and freedom of assembly, plus other measures were implemented.
- January 1, establishment of the Czechoslovak Federation. Two semi-autonomous states were established on the territory of Czechoslovakia: the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic, each with its own one-chamber parliament (the Czech National Council and the Slovak National Council) and its own government.
- June, Manifest of Interpretation in fine art was created by Alex Mlynárčik and Miloš Urbásek, which states: “Interpretation in fine art is a new creative dimension. It opens up other spaces as fertile starting points from the so-called authentic gestures, which we have so far anxiously adhered to. It is a creative realization of a projected or realisation of an existing work of art. The interpretation is based on the form and ideological nature of the origin …“
- August 22, the so-called baton law (Legal Measure of the Presidency of the Federal Assembly No. 99/1969 Coll.) entered into force, which was used for persecution against citizens opposed to the assaults of Warsaw Pact troops and situation in Czechoslovakia after the events of August 1968: “In order to consolidate and protect the public order that is currently being grossly disturbed, especially by anti-socialist and anti-social elements…”
- February, I. Snow Festival, Alex Mlynárčik, Milan Adamčiak, Róbert Cyprich and Miloš Urbásek held the festival as the first demonstration of artistic interpretation on the occasion of the World Ski Championships in the High Tatras – artists performed individual and common land-art interpretations of works by Peter Brueghel st., Erik Dietmann, Claes Oldenburg, Niki de Saint-Phale, Peter Brüning, Sanejouand, Miloš Urbásek, Dias, Nagasawa, Tobas and others
- Polymusical Space I. Sculpture, object, light, music in Piešťany, in 1969 a newly conceived idea of the tour of the Statue of Piešťany Parks was designed by Ľubor Kára, organizer of important presentations with international participants (Danuvius, Bratislava, 1968; Statue of Piešťany Parks, Piešťany, 1969). The exhibition presented contemporary tendencies as the synthesis of various art disciplines, not only of visual arts but of all media, including music, film, theatre and literature. Legendary site-specific installations were created there, many of them as temporary, closely linked to the place of implementation. Furthermore, objects, more traditional sculpture works, but also various types of Action Art like happening, performance, signal concept. The exhibition embraced and accepted current trends in a democratic and pluralistic way even in the spirit of the more liberal setting of society of the 1960s, but it was the last relaxed breath and farewell to free art. The show presented ca sixty works by forty artists (for example Alex Mlynárčik, Július Koller, Stano Filko, Jana Želibská, Juraj Bartusz, Vladimír Popovič and others).
- November 19, 1. Open Studio of Rudolf Sikora on Tehelná street 32 in Bratislava. The semi-public meeting of fine artists, initiated by the youngest generation of artists, recent graduates or even students, started to see the limited possibilities of free expression, lack of opportunities and spaces for exhibiting, meeting and open communication. The idea originated among artists and friends, Rudolf Sikora and Villam Jakubík, in cooperation with other invited artists both established and complete newcomers, prepared a group exhibition in a small house in the former workers’ quarter. The number of participating authors has grown to nineteen by gradually reaching out to the organizers: Milan Adamčiak, Peter Bartoš, Václav Cigler, Róbert Cyprich, Milan Dobeš, Villam Jakubík, Július Koller, Vladimír Kordoš, Ivan Kříž-Vyrubiš, Otis Laubert, Juraj Meliš, Alex Mlynárčik, Marián Mudroch, Jana Želibská, Rudolf Sikora, Ivan Štěpán, Dezider Tóth, Miloš Urbásek and Igor Gazdík. The works of art of the authors, in some cases also multiple, were created by a collective as well as individual approach, counting on the participation of the audience and with the physical temporaryity, which ended with the handing out, donation, call for entry and cooperation. There was a distinct criticism of the traditional artefact, on a small area they presented a whole range of forms of new, alternative art – music and poetry, action forms, Body Art, site specific installations, spatial interventions, object art, light art, using non-permanent materials and objects, applying also principles of accumulation, play and cooperation. The exhibition lasted two days, the next day the organizers were questioned by the State Security (ŠTB).
- On June 12, Alex Mlynárčik conceived and organized in cooperation with the extensive collective a spectacular event If All Trains of the World / Day of Joy in Zakamenné. The event was attended by: Milan Adamčiak, Erik Dietmann, Milan Dobeš, Villam Jakubík, Vladimír Kordoš, A. Miralda, Marián Mudroch, H. Nagasawa, Lev Nusberg, D. Selzová, Jana Želibská, Ch. Tobas and Miloš Urbásek.
1973 – 1974
- The creation of the White Space in the White Space project by the trio: Stano Filko, Ján Zavarský and Miloš Laky. The project was accompanied by text manifestos and spatial installations: “We subscribe to a free ‘pure sensitivity,’ which is absolute and is the only option of ‘pure sensitive art’.” According to art theorist Aurel Hrabušický, as their method, the authors determine “pure sensibility,” by which they “create an infinite emptiness” and thus created a “white intangible space in a white infinite space.”
- Action Week of Fictional Culture, Ján Budaj and the Temporary Society of Intensive Survival distributed billboards in several places in Bratislava (a hanging textile advertisements and paper posters) for non-existent events or concerts of bands that performance in the age of socialism was impossible (for example exhibition of Salvadore Dalí, or René Magritte, concert of Bob Dylan, or ABBA and others).
- From 1979 to 1986, the Bratislava Artefact Shift Championship was organized regularly by Dezider Tóth in the apartments and studios of the participants of the Championship. The status of an unofficially organised event included the conditions of a nine-month thematic shift, lasting from March 8 (International Women’s Day) to December 6 (Santa Claus day). Each participant should have created a ‘shift’ (paraphrase, interpretation, application, approximation, citation, etc.) of any work from the history of art, containing the specified theme to which the shift was bound, the assumptions allowed variability and heterogeneity of artistic proceeding: 1979 – Sensuality; 1980 – Touch; 1981 – Doubling; 1982 – Mystery, Myster; 1983 – Connection; 1984 – Myth; 1985 –Transformation (after art historian Ján Kralovič).
- Július Koller, Radislav Matuštík and Peter Meluzin initiated the informal actions by The Terrain group, focused on specific problems of the realizations and analysis of events in the fields, in nature, which derived from the need to communicate about the limitations of development of Action Art on the Slovak unofficial artscene. The last event was the Burial of The Terrain on February 16, 1985, which was performed by Peter Meluzin and the collective. Excerpt from the program of the group: “The Terrain is a suggestion that you take your action, the realization of which assumes and uses the free landscape, nature and human intervention in it, within a defined period of time in space; The terrain is a request respecting the principles and goals of your creation and therefore offering only a common space and time for individual realization of any type of event or for direct inspiration by specifying the region and the season…” In addition, apart from the founding members, actively participated in The Terrain: Ľubomír Ďurček, Dezider Tóth, Michal Kern, Jana Želibská, Vladimír Kordoš, Róbert Cyprich and others.
- October, Studio erté was founded in Nové Zámky as an association dealing with the organization of art events, mostly from the area of performance art; organizes festivals, exhibitions, symposia, internet conferences, concerts of contemporary music, and publishes catalogs, books and multimedia editions on art. Founded by Jozsef R. Juhász and Ilona Németh, Ottó Mészáros, Attila Simon.
- On March 25, a peaceful demonstration of Catholics for religious freedom took place in Bratislava’s Hviezdoslavovo Square, and participants held lit candles in their hands, so the demonstration entered to the history as a ‘candlelight demonstration’ (Candle Demonstration or Bratislava Good Friday). Police aggressively dispersed the demonstration with batons and water cannons, and an investigation was launched against several participants. With hindsight, it is considered to be one of the most important speeches by citizens and believers against the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia. This demonstration was the most significant activity of the secret church during communism.
- June 17-19, Transart Communication Festival of Experimental Art and Literature, first edition was held in Csemadok House, Nové Zámky, curated by Jozsef R. Juhász. The festival had a great impact on art in this part of Europe as a place of international meetings for artists from all over the world and was a sign of a new opening after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Thirty editions took place until 2018. However, the tradition of performance still continues at the Kassak Centre in Nové Zámky (Performance Box 2020).
The Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia and the fall of totalitarian communistic regime.
- The magazine Profile of contemporary fine art was founded and still is the oldest specialized professional periodical in the field of fine arts in Slovakia. It focuses on analysis of current topics of fine art practices, but above all theories and criticism of contemporary fine art with overlaps to visual culture, which are mediated by the views of domestic and other experts, as well as translations of selected texts of foreign specialists. The editor-in-chief is Jana Geržová.
- The first exhibition in Slovakia presenting Czech and Slovak avant-garde and post-avant-garde trends: Action Art, Body Art and Land Art at the Považská Art Gallery in Žilina under the name Umění akce, curator: Vlasta Čiháková Noshiro. Among the Slovak authors presented works by Milan Adamčiak, Peter Bartoš, Juraj Bartusz, Ján Budaj, Róbert Cyprich, Ľubomír Ďurček, Stano Filko, Vladimír Havrilla, Michal Kern, Július Koller, Vladimír Kordoš, Matej Krén, Radislav Matuštík, Peter Meluzin, Alex Mlynárčik, Marián Mudroch, Artprospekt P.O.P group, Peter Rónai, Rudolf Sikora, Ľubo Stacho, Dezider Tóth and Jana Želibská. Exhibition was realized in cooperation with Mánes Association of Fine Artists from Prague.
January 1, the end of Czechoslovakia. The establishment of two separate states – Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
- The exhibition Action Art 1965-1989 at the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava, in the curatorial concept of Zora Rusinová, prepared a comprehensive mapping and presentation of Action Art, accompanied by an extensive catalogue with rich figurative documentation. The basis of the exhibition were photographs (enlarged reproductions, new prints) and other visual and textual recordings of action works, supplemented by authentic or author reconstructed props and objects.
Compiled by Vladimíra Büngerová