//Artists from Krakow: The Second Krakow Group//
Artists from Krakow: The Second Krakow Group
30.03.2023 - 24.09.2023
Maria Anna Potocka
Krakow Group – Founding Myth of Polish Contemporary Art
In 1957, the second Krakow Group was formed, an association of independent artists, each with a different way of thinking but all equally committed to art. They were individualists, but what united them was their interest in contemporary art. The basic prerequisite for being invited to join the Group was a creative ‘neurosis’ – a feeling of intoxication with the drug that was making art. In this approach, the second Krakow Group was a few years ahead of Fluxus. It became the Polish avant-garde of postmodernism. Despite its name, artists from cities other than Krakow could also become members.
In 1958, the Group applied to the city hall to be allocated premises for a gallery. Krakow had always been brave in such matters. The Group was granted a cellar in the Krzysztofory Palace. This bold decision by officials was both a political and a cultural gesture, inspired by the tail end of the ‘thaw’. The artists were offered a space to practise their art and – incidentally, and unintentionally – a place to exercise artistic independence. The Krakow Group took advantage of both opportunities. The Krzysztofory Gallery was the first exhibition space offered to artists in the history of Poland.
Every member of the Group was entitled to exhibit at Krzysztofory, on the basis of its democratic founding. However, at some point a dictatorship emerged. The Krzysztofory rules succumbed to the personality of Tadeusz Kantor, whose talent and ego were indomitable and non-negotiable. He was a predator, naturally expansive, who changed his intellectual guises with ease. He painted expressive paintings, devised witty happenings, created theatre imbued with pathos and wrote insightful and prophetic manifestos. He commanded submission, but even more, he fascinated and inspired.
Kantor’s domination ended with the creation of Cricoteka. The Krzysztofory Gallery returned to its former openness and democracy – mitigated by artistic quality, of course. Over the 52 years of its existence, several hundred exhibitions, performances, meetings, lectures and theatre productions were organised at Krzysztofory. As well as the Group members, artists from all over the world have exhibited there.
After Stanisław Balewicz, Józef Chrobak became the director of Krzysztofory. This detective of culture and exposer of its hidden mechanisms collected all the documents and gossip related to the functioning of the Gallery and the Group, and published them in the multi-volume series Grupa Krakowska (dokumenty i materiały) [Grupa Krakowska (Krakow Group Documents and Materials)]. Thanks to his inquisitiveness and dedication, the operation of this most important formation of artists in post-war Poland gained a permanent and professional image in the history of art.
At a certain point, after the mid-1990s, the Krakow Group ceased to expand. It was most likely felt that the point of such initiatives had been exhausted. Józik Chrobak certainly thought so. In any case, the Krakow Group decided to commit suicide through withering on the wine. Today only a few members are still alive: Janusz Tarabuła, Andrzej Kostołowski and Zbigniew Warpechowski.
But the memory of this empire of artists seems safe.
 Fourteen years later, in 1972, I applied to the Department of Culture of the City Council for permission to run a private gallery in my flat. And permission was granted!