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//Polish Design: Uncut// – Andrzej Szczerski

Polish Design: Uncut – Andrzej Szczerski

Andrzej Szczerski (b. 1971) – art historian and critic, professor and director of museum curatorial studies (2005–2011) at the Institute of Art History, Jagiellonian University. Member of AICA, Polish Association of Art Historians and Historians of German and Central European Art & Architecture. Fellow of international schools and research institutes, including the University of Oxford. Laureate of the national fellowship for young scholars awarded by the Foundation for Polish Science (2000). President of the Polish Section of AICA since 2009. Jury member at many contemporary art competitions. Author of numerous publications devoted to 20th century art and contemporary art. Co-author of exhibitions, including Symbolism in Poland and Britain at Tate Britain, London (2009) and Modernisations 1918-1939. Future Perfect at the Art Museum in Łódź (2010).

Polish Design: Uncut

We should write about Polish design more frequently and more abundantly – it is just too good to stay at the sidelines of the discussion on fine arts and architecture, as it used to be before. Recently, we have seen a major breakthrough in this respect, with the publication of many crucial articles, collective works, monographs of selected historical periods, and, most importantly, the volume Rzeczy niepospolite, which presented the profiles of the most outstanding Polish designers of the 20th century. However, what we did not have was a book that would summarise the state of Polish design in contemporary times. Finally, we have one – published by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, which for years have been advertising Polish design all around the world, rightly treating it as an element of our national branding. The book was prepared by Czesława Frejlich, editor in chief of the ‘2+3D’ quarterly and editor of Rzeczy niepospolite, professor at the Faculty of Industrial Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, and the designer and design critic Dominik Lisik. The beautiful photographs illustrating the text were taken by Przemek Szuba. Thanks to their team work, we have received a guide to the world of contemporary Polish design, a true pioneer in all respects.

The book’s chapters are devoted to separate domains of design and discuss the output of specific designers, referring to their greatest achievements. In addition, the publication includes interviews with 12 designers, thus recognising their work and experience. Therefore, the book is both a catalogue of the best of the best in Polish design and an attempt to summarise the changes that took place between 2000 and 2013. One of the most important aspects of Polish Design is that it presents the significance of design for the economy, and, more broadly, for the entire economic transformation that had taken place in Poland. It is not therefore a story of unique objects, of paper blueprints or artsy items, but a narrative on things that actually made it to the stores and international fairs, contributing to the growth of Polish economy. It turns out that Poles are no dummies, they have their own language, as well as furniture, lamps, ceramics, watches, buses, airplanes, yachts and trains. It is also thanks to design that Polish economy is slowly finding its way out of the depression of the 1990s, when the market was dominated by imported, high-quality products. This process has been accelerating in recent years, although not without hiccups, as illustrated best by the interviews with selected designers or statistics that show how Polish furniture companies are merely sub-contractors to greater, international manufacturers. Despite the enormous progress, we still need to wait for ‘made-in-Poland’ products of a truly global reach. Polish Design: Uncut proves that our designers are ready to tackle this global competition. All they need is institutional and manufacturing support. In other words, we can hope that governmental strategic programmes that define design as one of their growth priorities will not be abandoned and will be actually put into action.

The selection of designers included in the book is of course subjective, but this is every author’s sacred right. It does not mean, though, that it is unsubstantiated. The book presents authors from various generations, all of whom are active today, proficient in latest technologies and traditional methods of production, and do well on the Polish market and abroad. The designs illustrate the stable position that the modernist tradition enjoys in Poland. Our designers often reach for functionalist formulas, are careful to use technology correctly; their works are a good example of ‘noble simplicity’ and fidelity to the ‘less is more’ principle. This is also not excessively experimental or costly design. It still factors the relatively limited financial resources of the Polish consumer into the creative process, nevertheless preserving the highest standards, succeeding in being both agreeable and functional. However, the book does not talk about graphic design, also a domain that contributes to the value of Polish design. This restriction, however, was deliberately imposed by the authors, who wanted to concentrate on product design. In other words, the book should not be treated as a knowledge compendium but rather as an indication of specific, quality trends that deserve to be appreciated.

Polish Design: Uncut is also, indirectly, a book about those that are invisible in its pages, i.e. the consumers of Polish products. Polish design must first of all find buyers in its own country. Only then can it, hopefully, find recognition in the world. We can thus see that the group of buyers interested in good domestic design is increasing, which is why the demand for new products is on the rise. The book is therefore also a story about the middle class that not only exists but also can wisely choose and readily buy things that were made in Poland. At the same time, Polish Design may be treated as a hand book that presents worthy models and educates people on high quality design. Everyone interested in their own environment should read this volume. It is also mandatory reading for students, professors and all people that work in contemporary Polish design. As any story written in the heat of the moment, Polish Design: Uncut does not form any general conclusions. It points out and describes the nature of the changes that are happening around us and inspires us to take further actions.