SP: Another edition of Legnica Festival SILVER is over. During its culmination in May Legnica became the destination for crowds of artists and jewellery lovers from all over the world. The event was both artistic and dynamic in character: 26 exhibitions, a film show, a concert, an academic seminar. Interesting arrangements, great graphics, excellent catalogues and folders accompanying almost every exhibition. And, above all, a wonderful, friendly atmosphere. How do you manage to achieve it?
MSZ: It's mainly a matter of experience, commitment, but above all a huge passion. We already have a lot of experience. I have been the curator of the Festival since 2006, so this is my 12th edition as a curator, but I have been working at the Festival since 2003. The director of the Gallery, who is the author of the current Festival formula, has been controlling its shape since 1996 and he has “infected” the whole team with his love for artistic jewellery. And I think this affection is reciprocated (laughs). We have a very good team, though not big as there are only eight people including our graphic designer and editors, but they’re experienced, understanding and persistent. In such a team one works comfortably, although conflicts do happen, especially when we work under the pressure of time.
SP: How long does it take to prepare for the Festival?
MSZ: We start working on the programme in October but ideas and concepts are discussed even earlier. We try to make the programme ready for November, December at the latest. Sometimes, however, amendments must be made as late as in February of the Festival year. Unfortunately, we have to work simultaneously on the Festival and on everyday tasks connected with the normal functioning of the Gallery. As a municipal institution we organise throughout the year exhibitions of painting, graphics, installations, photography, glass etc. We also offer a wide range of educational activities – various workshops for children, teenagers and adults, talks, lectures, gallery lessons and shows. Artistic jewellery is exhibited only during the two Festival months. This year our showrooms held painting and sculpture exhibitions until mid-April and from April 28th exhibitions of jewellery took over.
This proves that our assembly pace can be dizzying, especially that assembly works take place at the same time in various, also rented, venues. It is always difficult as the Gallery has only two showrooms and during the Festival over 20 exhibitions are organised. That’s why we have to use rented rooms and adjust to the terms of rent. In some venues we aren’t allowed even to put a nail into the wall, let alone make any more serious arrangement changes. For these reasons we have to be really resourceful (laughs) and put a great deal of effort into the assembly to create arrangements according to our concepts: they must fit the character of the works presented, be compatible with them and Festival guests cannot get bored seeing the same arrangement all over again.
For example in 2015 we presented the exhibition "We from Jedwabne" prepared by La Basilica Gallery in complete darkness. Visitors were given a candle and entered individually the heated room filled with the smell of burning wood. All visitors were very impressed by how the arrangement corresponded to the difficult and painful topic of the exhibition. Last year's exhibition of Jorge Manilla’s works was also presented in a darkened room. His works, made of black leather and black wood, were placed in black cases and that arrangement fully corresponded to the spirit of that extraordinary jewellery. We deliberately chose to present in the adjacent room an exhibition of luminous and transparent objects made of plexiglass and silver by Sergiusz Kuchczyński. White and black, night and day. These exhibitions complement each other really well. So, we no only arrange each individual exhibition, but we also think of a wider context in terms of space and neighborhood. Unfortunately, some arrangements have to be repetitive as we have a very limited budget and therefore cannot arrange everything the way we want to or at least buy new showcases, for example.
This year one of the most interesting arrangements belonged to Sława Tchórzewska’s exhibition. We divided the space into a black-and-white section and a colourful one. The entire wall as well as showcases in the colourful section were covered in paintings by Sława, while the other wall was painted black and the showcases were white. Monochromatic works were presented in the black-and-white section and the colourful ones - in the colourful part.
Our arrangements are often minimalist, ascetic even, employing a white background etc., sometimes, however, we like to go a little crazy as in the case of Sława’s exhibition.
1st Prize (Grand Prix of the Minister of Culture and National Herritage) - Susanne Matsche (Germany)
SP: All right, you’ve told us a little bit about what goes on behind the main Festival stage but I‘d like to ask you about the other side of the Festival coin: how do you build up the programme, what is your guiding idea? And what do you find to be the most important?
MSZ: Exhibition arrangements are of course important but the most important thing is the general concept around which the programme of the entire Festival is developed. The program is built together with my boss, director of the Gallery, Zbigniew Kraska. Sometimes we consult some issues with artists and curators who have been cooperating with us for years, like prof. Sławomir Fijałkowski, especially the selection of the theme of the International Jewellery Competition. It is the theme of the contest - central event of the Festival - that is the starting point for the construction of the Festival programme.
Choosing it, we always focus on important, current problems in the social, civilizational or art sphere. It’s no wonder then that this year's theme of the contest was IDENTITY. Around this theme other exhibitions and events were planned, so that the identity motif could recur in various forms throughout the Festival.
The exhibition by Arek Wolski "Only what you've rejected will be left for you" brilliantly explored the identity topic. The artist presented his works bordering on art and design, jewellery as well as objects referring to important, current moral, social and political issues, presented in the language of critical and conceptual art, often with irony. Similarly, Akiko Kurihara's works at her exhibition "All that glitters is not silver" described human nature with great sensitivity and wit.
Among collective exhibitions we presented two national groups: the Taiwanese group BENCH 886 with the exhibition "Bubble Land" and the Chilean Joya Brava with the exhibition "Ordinary Stories". These exhibitions clearly showed how much jewellery, its character, its appearance and message is influenced by the country, the space in which we live and the traditions in which we are raised.
One of the highlights of this year’s Festival programme was the international collective exhibition of the most eminent jewellers from all over the world called "Nature Morte", which explored the subject of still life. It was created in cooperation with the Museum of Contemporary Art in London (MOCA) and the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław. It was accompanied by an international post-competition exhibition prepared by Baltic Jewelery and Amber Trip and the exhibition of stylized photographs taken within the framework of the project "Nature Morte" at Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts. These exhibitions were excellent as separate shows and mutually complemented each other at the same time.
"SILVER SCHOOLS" series is a recurring point in the Festival programme. This year we presented three institutions: Institut Jeanne Toussaint - Parure Bijouterie from Brussels (Belgium), Jewellery Studio at the Metal Department of the National Academy of Art in Sofia (Bulgaria) and Jewelry and Fashion Department of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem ). Other recurring points are "DEBUTS" - a series presenting works of young artists (in the previous edition: Adam Kaczmarek) and "ABOUT THE ARTISTS" - presenting recognized, well-established artists (this year: Marcin Tymiński - with a great exhibition of polymer jewellery.prepared for the 20th anniversary of his artistic activity, Harold O'Connor, Akiko Kurihara, Arek Wolski, Patricia Domingues, DOT, Małgorzata Kalińska, Sara Gackowska & Federica Sala, Michalina Owczarek, Sławek Tchórzewska).
A few years ago we introduced another series called “J-LAB.” In its framework we want to present experimental exhibitions presenting new, original approaches to jewellery. This year we presented the exhibition "Light Matters" showing the interplay of jewellery objects with illumination and opening new possibilities for interpretation of visual reception.
Exhibitions of jewellery with Baltic amber – typical Polish jewellers’ material - are another Festival tradition. This year we showed the post-competition exhibition "Amberif Design Award PERIPHERY" and the international collective exhibition "Gdansk Baltic Amber Biennale". The Polish group AU+ also presented their exhibition “Paradigm Space” as a matter of 6-year-long tradition.
Obviously, every year jewellery exhibitions are accompanied by a number of fringe exhibitions and events: post-competition exhibitions of posters and photographs exploring the Festival's theme, film screenings, workshops, an academic session and a concert.
SP: At the culmination I heard a lot of positive comments about the high level of exhibitions, especially the main exhibition. Many people also emphasized the unique, wonderful, even magical atmosphere. How do you create this magic?
MSZ: As far as the main exhibition is concerned we’ve been trying from the very beginning to assure the highest level of our post-competition exhibitions. This is guaranteed by the jurors. We always invite people with outstanding competence and true expertise to participate in the jury. Another factor is a wide-ranging promotion of the contest whose participants come from over 40 countries around the world. Every year we get a few hundred works, out of which the jury choose about 50 best. All this guarantees the high level of the post-competition exhibition.
As for the magical atmosphere, I think that all the guests who participate in the culmination share our passion and sincere commitment. In addition, the culmination formula also matters: exhibition venues are located close to one another, most of them in Legnica Old Town Square. All guests: artists, curators, journalists and jewellery lovers together with the organizers and exhibitors participate in all the vernissages getting to know one another and sharing their impressions. Friends are made, new ideas are born. And then discussions about art, life, plans and dreams continue late into the night, accompanied by good music and tasty snacks.
SP: And what are your plans and dreams?
MSZ: My dream is for the Festival to continue and grow and get still better and broader reception. I dream about a stable, permanent subsidy for the Festival, which would make me look into the future with joy and enthusiasm instead of concern and anxiety. As far as my personal plans go, the closest ones are about my holiday and attending to some personal matters like meetings with my family and friends. It’s something that I’m really looking forward to.
SP: So, have a great holiday. And for you and the whole team at Legnica Gallery as well as jewellery makers and its lovers, I wish that Legnica Festival would last forever and grow in strength. Thank you for the interview.
MSZ: Thank you.