An Elusive Presence: Curating Roma Art in Poland Today

It seems that over the centuries too many mistakes and misreadings of Roma art have been committed by scholars, historians, art curators, journalists, and ordinary people – all wishing to understand it. Probably the most far-reaching and historically burdened mistake was to ethnographize and – in consequence – self-ethnographize the art of the Roma which for many years was described and analyzed by ethnographers only. As such, the Roma were colonized and presented as naïve artists, amateur artists, primitive artists and their work was usually associated with folk culture. This state of affair has been changing for the last couple of years; also in Poland where professional artists of Roma origin and Roma contemporary art have finally emerged. Today over a decade has passed since 2007, when the first Roma pavilion was set up in Venice. Private and state-owned art galleries increasingly often organise international exhibitions of contemporary Roma art, while Roma artists are invited to display their works at exhibitions focused on other themes. Also, Roma artists themselves initiate multiple artistic events. Based on my own curatorial experience with regard to contemporary Roma art in Poland, I would like to address several questions concerning institutional visibility of Roma artists in nowadays Poland and in the Polish art world, themes addressed by artists and their art, and the long journey from colonised folk makers, as they were widely seen, to decolonised contemporary artists, what they are today.

Scroll to Top