Symbols of Life after Death: Commemorative Sculpture by Krzysztof M. Bednarski

Temporary exhibitions

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  • Thursday, May 20, 2021 - Sunday, March 13, 2022

The exhibition is dedicated to two recently deceased eminent artists – Krzysztof Penderecki and Adam Zagajewski. Krzysztof M. Bednarski is the author of the sarcophagus sculptures dedicated to them in the National Pantheon at the Church of St Apostles Peter and Paul. The exhibition at MOCAK will be a broader presentation of his commemorative art.

Nowadays, original funerary sculpture is rare. Krzysztof M. Bednarski has succeeded in transposing art into the context of death and its singular place of display – the cemetery. The artist has rejected functional forms and traditional, over sentimental symbolism. He has created new symbols of the life after death, which draw from the personality of the deceased.

The chapter of commemorative sculpture in Krzysztof. M. Bednarski’s art opened with the work Polish Thanatos (1984) – a sculpture dedicated to the deceased members of Jerzy Grotowski’s Laboratory Theatre company. A halved boat with a burnt tree covered in ash symbolises a journey, a passage to the other side. The work was created at a time when the artist did not yet feel up to undertaking the task of creating tombstones, despite numerous requests to do so. It was only years later that he realised that the best thing he could do for someone close to him who passed away was to make for them a tombstone that would reflect their personality. Since 1992, Bendarski has created over a dozen such projects, including tombstone for Krzysztof Kieślowski, Ryszard Cieślak, Wojciech Fangor, Krzysztof Krauze, and Tomasz Stańko. Each of them is a symbolic portrait of the deceased, a synthesis of his individual creativity. Krzysztof M. Bednarski shows that in order to create a enduring monument made of bronze what matters the most, besides the fine material used such as marble, granite or indeed bronze – is the form.

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