FRFigury Retoryczne / Figures of Speech

Figury retoryczne. Warszawska rzeźba architektoniczna 1918-1970
Figures of Speech. The Architectural Sculpture of Warsaw 1918-1970

Exhibition at the Xawery Dunikowski Museum of Sculpture, National Museum in Warsaw

Status: exhibition design
Autorzy / authors: Piotr Bujas, Aleksandra Tomaka
Date / data: 2016

Curator / Kurator: Alicja Gzowska
Initiatiors of the project / Inicjatorzy projektu: Agnieszka Tarasiuk, Katarzyna Kucharska-Hornung
Graphic Design / Projekt graficzny: Poważne Studio


The architectural sculpture of Warsaw usually brings to mind Socialist Realism and the rhetoric of propaganda, but for sure it is not entirely what it seems. Few know how many Socialist Realist sculptures really adorn the edifices of the capital city. Few are able to correctly name from memory all the figures that cast glances from above at people in the area of Konstytucji Square. The only thing we know about the architectural sculpture of Warsaw is that it exists, and that’s basically it. The exhibition was accompanied by a book publication that recapitulates more than one year of research pursued in collaboration with the Institute of Art History of the University of Warsaw, featuring texts by prof. Waldemar Baraniewski, Ewa Toniak PhD, prof. Marta Leśniakowska, among other scholars, and unique visual documentation by Szymon Rogiński.

One of the main problems of the exhibition design – to be located in the monumental interiors of the Królikarnia Palace, National Museum in Warsaw was arrangement of multiple objects with extreme span of the scale and dimensions: from the size of archival ID photographs up to a silicone relief of over 6 m in length and several hundred kilograms weight. The exhibition adopts the regular format of a museum show,  at the same time objects groups are clustered according to their role in the narrative: contemporary photographic documentation is framed on the walls, historical documentation is presented with distance to the walls, archival materials are presented in a horizontal display while spatial objects and sculptures are on "islands" stands. The principle feature of the exhibition is based on a linear narrative proposed by the curator. It has been locally modified to allow the best exposure of certain objects (with regard to ensuring the natural/artificial lighting, dimensional compliance). It is also a consequence of the use a suite of rooms of the Museum.

The Palace enfilade leads the visitor by thematic narration (starting from the main entrance from the staircase, with a central space of the rotunda, that works as a liaison between the initial thread; 1920-30’s, post-war period and ending theme – documentation from sculptors own archives with commentary of a contemporary works). Public Workshop installation of Mathew Derbyshire located in the rotunda can be treated in this concept as a metaphor of the contemporary Warsaw city center with it’s historical and esthetical heterogenity.