City of Art

14 December 2023

Artistic cooperatives, ephemeral one-offs, commercial enterprises or ones turning their backs on the art market – such are Kraków’s galleries. And their numbers keep growing!

Justyna Nowicka

Kraków is home to dozens of galleries, perhaps close to a hundred. Their diversity is the direct result of the diversity of the local artistic circles, and their vitality could be compared to a rich ecosystem: there are monumental galleries and those in states of hibernation or transformation, others have aspirations or traditions, and new ones are springing up all the time. Let’s talk about a few.

The smallest of them all

Kraków’s smallest gallery is located on one of the most popular streets in Poland: alongside shops selling amber, sweets and souvenirs, and near kebab bars. Galeria Mikrob 1:12 operates in a beautiful old shop front at 15 Floriańska Street. Independent and non-commercial, it was founded on the initiative of the artist Agata Kus and owners of the Baza Pub music club located at the same address. “We are trying to reclaim Floriańska for visual arts, for local residents, for tourists interested in contemporary art. We operate pro bono, we do everything ourselves. But we believe that this difficult location deserves art of the highest order,” says Agata. The tiny space serves as inspiration and provocation for artists, even though you could easily miss it from the street. The founder of Mikrob started off by presenting a model of the music club made on a 1:12 scale, followed by the filmmaker Mariusz Wilczyński showing off his own work. Other miniature exhibitions were prepared by Łukasz Stokłosa and Marcin Maciejowski. In the autumn, the shop front was taken over by Katarzyna Wyszkowska.

Jak zapomnieć and Szaber

They don’t have regular opening hours – they don’t even have staff. Instead, they have a desire to show new art and organise exhibitions and vernissages, frequently under their own steam and after hours. There has been no shortage of similar galleries in recent years, springing up on the initiative of artists or curators – and the Academy of Fine Arts and art faculties at the University of the National Education Commission provide fertile ground for new ideas.

One of the most interesting centres of artistic life is at 55 Wrocławska Street, home to three galleries: Szaber, Art Industry Standard and Galeria Piana. Szaber isn’t as much a gallery as a collective of Wiktoria Kieniksman, Michał Maliński, Sebastian Mikoś, Oliwia Rosa and Paweł Zięba. They held their first exhibitions during the pandemic at different locations every time – and today, the artists’ gallery finally has a home. They have presented five exhibitions at Wrocławska this year alone, several of them debuts; the space is worth visiting to discover the latest in Cracovian art, especially made by the youngest artists.

Another young gallery Jak zapomnieć is, compared with Szaber, a veteran on the local scene: it has been operating since 2018, and its current venue at Bonifraterska Street is its second home. The original Jak zapomnieć on Dietla Street combined a vintage store full of curiosities selected by the artist Karolina Jarzębak, co-running the gallery with Tomek Nowak. It has always been home to the now-popular fashion for the early 2000s – it has even taken its name from a hip-hop hit from the period. Jak zapomnieć presents exhibitions by young, up-and-coming artists – mainly those who are already making their mark across Poland, alongside a few fresh graduates.

UFO landing at Krakowska Street

Maria Ciborowska from the UFO Art Gallery at Krakowska Street is an art merchant and visual artist. As she says herself, she “encourages artists to break down boundaries and take artistic journeys into the unknown” – she even named one of her exhibitions Unknown. UFO Art Gallery specialises in contemporary painting and focuses on artists from Kraków. Magdalena Ujma, Vice President of the Polish section of the International Association of Art Critics AICA, stressed on Radio Kraków Kultura, “UFO is about more than fascinating exhibitions – it’s about attempting to animate art trade in Kraków.” One important UFO initiative was the project Cracovian Spleen, prepared in collaboration with 1891 Garni Hotel in the Kazimierz district. Its interiors hosted contemporary Cracovian artists for several days. Will UFO defeat the legendary Cracovian spleen? We’re keeping our fingers crossed!

Between Ćmielów and Kraków

Van Rij Gallery’s headquarters is located at the former ceramics factory Świt in Ćmielów, with an exhibition space of over 500 square metres. It was launched on the Kraków scene a few years ago, and you’ll find it at 1 Morsztynowska Street. “We work with mature artists such as Wojciech Kopczyński, Paweł Orłowski, Olga Zabroń, Masakazu Miyanaga and Tamara Berdowska. Van Rij Gallery presents and promotes their activities at home and abroad. The gallery’s interests focus on human nature, and gender equality is important to us and our artists. Van Rij is a place where traditions of past generations and new ideas come together,” says founder Katarzyna Rij. She adds, “Our near future focuses on the young generation. We are planning a range of initiatives and events, and we are already recruiting curators and artists. In 2024 and 2025, we are planning to showcase Polish art at exhibitions in Vienna and Amsterdam, and at international art fairs.”

Synergy, diversity, collaboration

The City of Kraków recently published its Programme for Visual Arts 2032, prepared jointly with the Małopolska Cultural Institute. “Our aim is to improve synergy, maintain polycentricity, encourage artistic diversity, improve cooperation and communication, and provide brand-new tools for everyone, such as artistic and curatorial residencies and prizes for debuting artists. We want to support the art market, develop gallery and studio programmes, bolster the presence of art in the public space, encourage the formation of artistic cooperatives and support art critics,” explains Robert Piaskowski, Plenipotentiary of the Mayor of Kraków for Culture.

The ambitious plan is founded in the diversity of space focused on art: as well as acclaimed galleries with longstanding traditions, we should also explore informal, alternative spaces, arising here and now. New spaces for art and their creators are a perfect element of this way of thinking.

Justyna Nowicka

photo by Wojciech Nowicki
Programme editor of Radio Kraków Culture, interview host, debate moderator, editor of radio shows.


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.