Art Above Divisions

6 May 2023

KRAKERS is indelibly tied with many locations throughout the city, according to Małgorzata and Marcin Gołębiewski, organisers of the Cracow Art Week.

Cracow Art Week KRAKERS

Arkadiusz Półtorak: You recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of Art Agenda Nova, one of the most recognisable private galleries in Kraków. A few years after its opening, you launched the ArtBoom Festival promoting art in the public sphere. You also run the Cracow Art Weekend KRAKERS which has grown to become a week-long event. What gave you the idea for this latest enterprise? Were ArtBoom and the gallery not meeting your ambitions – or perhaps the ambitions of artistic circles?

Małgorzata Gołębiewska: Art Agenda Nova was originally located in unassuming, small premises in Kazimierz. I’m sure you understand that having just 30 square metres felt insufficient [laughs]. I think it’s more useful here to talk about ArtBoom, though. Organising the international festival absorbed seven years of our lives. It was an important time. ArtBoom brought plenty of challenges, but it was also enormously fulfilling, especially by allowing us to work with respected artists. But we soon noticed that the event doesn’t make the most of the potential of Cracovian creative circles. We started to think about how to make the most of it.
Marcin Gołębiewski: I’d like to add that we spoke with colleagues from other exhibition spaces about the need to work together. The reason was simple – it was about disappointingly low attendance.

You held the first edition of KRAKERS in 2012 – not even a full year after the first gallery weekend in Warsaw. Pure coincidence?

Marcin G.: The Warsaw weekend was an inspiration. We launched the first KRAKERS about six months later, also as a weekend-long event, and – mirroring Warsaw – on the assumption that it should include only an elite selection of galleries. However, we found this formula counterproductive in the Kraków context.

Why was that?

Marcin G.: Although the first edition was successful, it left us wanting more. We didn’t make the most of the full potential of the local artistic circles which Gosia mentioned.
Małgorzata G.: Of course we wanted to be visible and to get closer to commercial circles, which are in fact far more active in Warsaw than anywhere else. From the start, the Kraków event aimed to support artistic circles by supporting artists’ interests, encouraging the public to visit galleries and stimulating new initiatives presenting art. We still see this as a worthy goal, and KRAKERS continues to grow and thrive. By adopting an egalitarian formula, we have been able to exceed the expectations of exhibition organisers and reach diverse audiences.

The programme of KRAKERS includes student initiatives, private galleries focusing on selling contemporary art and even spaces showing early art… Can the event bring such diverse circles together?

Małgorzata G.: Our egalitarian strategy means we are not hermetic, and we encourage different kinds of audiences to interact with contemporary art. This makes KRAKERS an authentic review free of rivalry, and it’s less predictable than other similar events.
Marcin G.: This approach familiarises conservative audiences with more progressive art, and vice versa. The decision to use far more flexible selection criteria by the second edition was absolutely spot on – it’s no wonder that the City of Kraków has become one of our patrons.

For the last few years, the programme included sections titled City and Laboratory. Where did the idea of this split come from? What do you expect from works submitted to the latter competition section?

Marcin G.: The competition is an opportunity for people who create and promote art, but – in contrast to the City section – the artists don’t have permanent premises or the kind of legal status which would make it easier for them to obtain funds.
Małgorzata G.: Although each event has a leading theme, we give the participants freedom to interpret it. The jury select projects which follow the theme in the most convincing or provocative ways, which are well-thought-out and well implemented.
Marcin G.: The programme of the section reveals the importance of self-organisation and the impact of non-commercial experiments on Kraków’s artistic circles. That’s why developing the Laboratory section is so satisfying.

This year’s leading theme is “Art Always Wins!” How do you interpret it, and can you reveal a little of what we can expect at the exhibition following KRAKERS at Art Agenda Nova?

Małgorzata G.: To put it simply, we would prefer art to win over anything else. The motto is the words of Al Hansen from the 20th-century Fluxus movement. At Art Agenda Nova, we want to serve something from the international, interdisciplinary community which emphasised the artistic process over the finished product and tackled issues affecting society.
Marcin G.: We always try to pick themes which can be interpreted on two levels. At a glance, they are egalitarian and clear to all. However, they are made more complex by their specific heritage.
Małgorzata G.: That’s what it was like with the previous edition, “We Are Multitude”. The superficial meaning was clear: it referred to a sense of community and an understanding overcoming barriers. However, some sociologists understand the concept of “multitude” as a specific kind of communal subjectivity emerging in society under the influence of globalisation and digitalisation and a crisis in statehood. It’s worth adding that participants in KRAKERS always provide fresh interpretations of our themes – interpretations we couldn’t have even imagined.

Are there any specific projects from past editions you especially remember and which could serve as a symbol of KRAKERS?

Małgorzata G.: Every event features memorable exhibitions. For example, the most recent Laboratory included a project curated by Anna Batko: a collective exhibition by artists who have accompanied KRAKERS since the threshold of their careers and who remain closely involved with acclaimed galleries and institutions throughout Poland.
Marcin G.: I’d say the best symbol of the event is the continuing activity of venues which have grown in Kraków alongside KRAKERS, such as Potencja, Elementarz dla Mieszkańców Miast and CSW Wiewiórka… We are proud that we have contributed to their success. We’re also delighted to work with academic circles, in particular the Faculty of Art at the Pedagogical University. Its event Faculty of Art in the City has been an important partner of Art Week since 2020.

The article published in the 1/2023 issue of "Kraków Culture" quarterly.

Małgorzata and Marcin Gołębiewski

Fot. Katarzyna Mierzwińska
Małgorzata is an art historian and theologian, and Marcin is a lawyer. They are the co-founders and curators of the Art Agenda Nova contemporary art gallery in Kraków (2002) and the East of Art Foundation (2006). Founders of the ArtBoom Festival of Visual Arts in Kraków (2009–2014), the Cracow Gallery Weekend KRAKERS (2012–2018) and the Cracow Art Week (since 2019). Marcin also served as artistic director of the Katowice Street Art Festival in 2014.

Arkadiusz Półtorak

Fot. Jimena Gabriella Gauna
Scholar of culture, curator and visual art critic. Assistant at the Faculty of Performative Art at the Department of Polish Studies at the Jagiellonian University and secretary of the Polish Division of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA). Holder of grants from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education (2015) and the City of Kraków (2022), and author of a book on strategies and affirmative tactics in contemporary art (2020). He has been co-running the Elementarz dla Mieszkańców Miast gallery in Kraków since 2016.



Kraków Travel
Kids in Kraków
Close We use cookies to facilitate the use of our services. If you do not want cookies to be saved on your hard drive, change the settings of your browser.