In a city so inundated with cultural pursuits, it’s hardly surprising that Kraków is bursting at the seams with great contemporary art galleries and innovative exhibition spaces. We take a look at the top 10 contemporary art galleries in the city, ranging from collections of celebrated Polish masters to bohemian workshops dedicated to experimentation and change.
Whilst still a relatively new addition to the Kraków contemporary art scene (established in 2010), MOCAK has done well to secure itself a place as an exemplary cultural venue. The magnificent exterior was designed by Claudio Nardi to mimic and integrate with the industrial surroundings of the city’s Podgórze district, sitting in harmony with the post-war factory roofs and warehouses close by. Inside, the exhibitions focus largely on works from the past 20 years, showcasing pieces designed across a variety of media with the aim of demystifying contemporary art. Expect subversive triptych photography from Katarzyna Górna, deconstructionist sculptures from Paweł Althamer, visceral oils from Muntean and Rosenblum and plenty more.
Between exhibitions of Jakub Czyszczoń’s reflective and fragmentary collages and the meta-artistic portfolios of Sergey Shabohin, it’s fair to say that Nova Gallery has fulfilled its goal to fully represent Kraków’s experimental contemporary art scene via regular presentations of works sourced from relative obscurity. The gallery space is run by husband-and-wife team Marcin and Margaret Golebiewski – both accomplished art-historians, critics, aficionados and curators– whilst the gallery’s relatively new location on Batorego Street has afforded the space a more reflective setting outside of the old town.
It seems fitting that the Olympia Gallery cites the controversial work of the same name by Édouard Manet as its influence, for the space fulfills the controversial trend initiated by Manet’s creation and exhibits the more awkward, uneasy and unforgiving pieces of contemporary art. The cannon of past and current works ranges from the chilling prints of Robert Motelski to the brooding pieces of Tomasz Vetulani, the latter casting the complexities of the world into stark monochrome fixtures. On-site, there is also an artisan shop selling collections of photography, printed t-shirts adorned with works of art and even a range of smaller artworks.
Liaising with the very best of local Polish contemporary artists since the early 80s, the Gologorski Gallery is hailed as one of the longest-running and most prestigious privately owned exhibition spots in Kraków. It can be located in its hidden position beneath the neo-classical frontispieces on busy Grodzka Street, displaying a wealth of portraiture, sculpture, jewelry and design or hosting more avant-garde performance art pieces and multimedia works. There is a distinct focus on championing the styles of Polish contemporary work to foreign patrons, so expect plenty in the way of local flavor.
Nestled beneath the leafy boughs of Kraków’s Planty Park, Bunkier Sztuki enjoys a prime location on the cusp of the city’s old town. Sitting snugly between the neo-classical façades of Szczepanski Square, the gallery space punctuates the history of its surroundings by juxtaposing them – being the lone homage to modernist design in the locality. The gallery presents a regular stream of contemporary exhibitions with a particular focus on the works of burgeoning artists from Kraków and the greater Małopolska region. There’s also a studied focus on cross-media works and installation art, with confronting pieces such as Robert Kuśmirowski’s apocalyptic The Collectors Massif rubbing shoulders with more existential, abstract or minimalist displays.
For more than 20 years, the family-owned Starmach Gallery has been presenting cutting-edge contemporary exhibitions to the discerning gallery-goers in Kraków. In the late 90s, it moved from its central location on the city’s Market Square, to a restored historic prayer house in the former Jewish district of Podgórze. Here, the offering is eclectic to say the least, oscillating between a real mixture of contemporary styles – from the surreal and provocative sculptures of established artists like Władysław Hasior to the uneasily erotic pieces of Walter Pfeiffer. Simply put, this gallery tackles each facet of contemporary art with ambitious and innovative flair.
Dedicated to familiarizing the public with the major developments within the artistic world from the 19th to the 20th century, Kraków’s International Cultural Centre fields an array of contemporary pieces that are supported by surrounding historical artworks. The collection ranges from the avant-garde to works of Polish modernists operating across the globe. What’s more, the viewing space is a charming and alluring piece of artistry in itself, housed between the historic facades and gloomy gothic passageways of the House of the Ravens, perched on the edge of the bustling Market Square in the heart of the city.
There’s something about the stripped down interior of the Pauza Gallery and Bar on bustling Florianska Street that makes it the perfect backdrop for one of Kraków’s best independent photography exhibitions. Perhaps it’s the crowd of bohemian, free-thinkers that the beatnik decor attracts, or maybe it’s the charming antithesis of the modern gallery with the standard tourist pursuits throughout the old town. Whatever it is, Pauza’s consistent offering of local works and burgeoning artists sits well between the walls of its second-floor gallery space, set to the melody of clinking beers and cultural conversation below.
Artworks set to the industrious sound of thumping hammers and grinding saws is what greets visitor at Wytwórnia, the workshop-come-contemporary-gallery in the heart of the quirky Podgórze district. The pieces adorning the exhibition are in a state of continuous flux, always ready to be altered, contributed to and adapted. What’s more, the space has become a veritable hub for young artists and creative types from across Kraków, all of whom come to participate in community art projects, contribute experimental interdisciplinary ideas and aid with collective exhibitions and hands-on workshops. In short, this is the ideal place for getting up close and personal with the very nuts and bolts of the Kraków contemporary arts scene.