Right-wing takeover of Polish museums continues as Łodz Art Museum is latest cultural institution to face change in leadership

The evisceration of contemporary art institutions in Poland continues.

In the wake of several high-profile departures of directors of publicly-funded Polish artistic institutions, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, headed by Piotr GliÅ„ski, announced last week that it would not renew the director’s contract from the Łodz Art Museum, Jaroslaw Suchan, who has chaired the institution since 2006.

Suchan was made aware of the ministry’s decision over a month ago. He stays in his role until a new manager is found.

Founded in 1930, the Łodz Art Museum, known in Polish as Muzeum Sztuki, is dedicated to the research and presentation of Polish and international avant-garde art of the 20th and 21st centuries. It is housed in three locations ms¹, ms² and Herbst Palace Museum.

Under Suchan’s direction, from 2006 to 2021, the institution forged several partnerships around the world with the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid, the SESC Consolaçao in São Paulo, the Center Pompidou in Paris and the Kunstmuseum Den Haag.

Suchan presided over a period of intense experimentation at the museum, embarking on intensive research exhibitions, educational programs and audience development. Last month, CIMAM (International Committee of Museums and Collections of Modern Art) held a conference at the museum titled “Under Pressure. Museums in times of xenophobia and climate emergency.

Suchan said the ministry’s decision not to renew his contract was made in bad faith.

“Replacing a director makes sense when the institution is in bad shape,” says Suchan The arts journal, “But the Muzeum Sztuki has had a fairly successful career, marked by highly rated exhibitions and strong international collaborations. “

“It’s hard for me to understand the logic of this decision,” Suchan adds.

“Sure, [the culture ministry] has the legal right to replace me ”, but“ I don’t think this is motivated by concern for the well-being of the institution.

The Łodz Art Museum is run by the ministry and the local municipal government (under the regional government, headed by Urząd Marszałkowski). The decision not to extend his term is taken by these two governing bodies.

In the past, the Ministry of Culture, under the auspices of the ruling populist party in Poland, Law and Justice, has been accused of sacking left-wing administrators and replacing them with individuals who come under the anti-political party. abortion, anti-immigrant, EU- skeptical ideology. In 2019 the longtime CCA castle director Ujazdowski was replaced and in 2021 the institution mounted an exhibit that local rabbis accused contain anti-Semitic symbols.

As recently as last week, the Culture Ministry announced a change of management at the Zacheta National Art Gallery in Warsaw, with a letter calling it “yet another act of destruction of Polish culture by the party in power”.

According to Polish art critic and publisher Krzysztof GutfraÅ„ski, the decision to replace Suchan comes under the auspices of “conservatives who walk.””.

Gutfrański tells The arts journal he fears that it is too late to save Polish artistic institutions, fearing that the damage has already been done and that it will now take years to rebuild what has been lost.

“The Ministry of Culture, by the apparently legal practice of not renewing contracts or finding loopholes in the regulations to insert its own people, deprives the country of people with extensive experience and international contacts, replacing them with radicalized apparatchiks. “

The Ministry of Culture and Heritage did not respond to a request for comment.

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