The Exchange Gallery was established by the artist, movie-maker and animator Józef Robakowski, in 1978 in his private flat in Łódź. Throughout the next decade, the Exchange Gallery became one of the most important sites of so-called independent art movement, as well as one of the nodes of global neo-avant-garde net.
Łódź , Polska
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Name of collection
- Exchange Gallery
Provenance and cultural activities
The basis on which the Exchange Gallery was established was the neo-avant-garde society in Łódź, gathered around the National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre as well as the Academy of Fine Arts, and familiar with pre-war avant-garde tendencies. The artists from the Zero-61 group from Toruń: Wojciech Bruszewski, Józef Robakowski, Antoni Mikołajczyk, and Andrzej Różycki concentrated on photography, installation and art theory. In the middle of the 1960s they chose the film school for their further education and artistic progress. In the next decade, the group was widened with new members: Tadeusz Junak, Zbigniew Rybczyński, Paweł Kwiek, Kazimierz Bendkowski, Ryszard Waśko, Marek Koterski, Ryszard Gajewski, Ryszard Lenczewski, and others. Together they created the Workshop of Film Form, affiliated with the film school. The Workshop was focused on an analysis of movie structure and materiality and elimination of narrative and picturesqueness from a film. Besides the Workshop, the neo-avant-garde circle in Łódź was developed by activities of Jerzy Treliński, Krystyn Zieliński, Ewa Partum, Andrzej Łobodziński, Andrzej Pierzgalski, Zbigniew Dłubak, and Zbigniew Warpechowski.
In the 1970s the avant-garde artists interested in new media, visual poetry, and performance art moved on to open their private galleries: 80x140 Gallery by Jerzy Treliński, A4 Gallery by Andrzej Pierzgalski, Adres Gallery by Ewa Partum, Na Piętrze Gallery by Tadeusz Porada, Mirosław Woźnica and Bogna Stawicka. Social meetings had carried on in the salon of poet Zdzisław Jaskuła. Also, the Studio Theatre often offered the place for alternative artists. The Association of Culture Creators (ACC) was established as a grassroot alternative to the official union of Polish artists; part of the association was the Ślad Gallery. There were leaflets, manifests, folders, brochures, art books and mail art there. The intensive circulation of correspondence, artists’ journeys around Poland and abroad, as well as international events created by ACC set up a social network of exchange of ideas and artistic artifacts. The next node of this network was the Exchange Gallery founded in 1978 by Zbigniew Robakowski and Małgorzata Potocka. The home gallery of the marriage of Robakowski and Potocka was concentrated on an exchange of thoughts among neo-avant-garde from Łódź, Poland, and the rest of the world, as well as documentation and archiving of artworks. Personal acquaintances and gathering abundant correspondence, mail art, art books, photos, and video recordings, brought out one of the most crucial independent collection of new art in Eastern Europe.
In spite of using of various kinds of media and techniques – installation, photography, video, typography, mail art, performance – and theoretical differences (from mystical essentialism to ironic pragmatism) the 1970s neo-avant-garde artists perceived themselves as a united progressive movement. In the frames of this movement independent galleries, groups, associations, exhibitions and publications were founded. Thanks to an international connection with artists abroad, the Polish neo-avant-garde movement could imagine itself as a part of a global network. The Exchange Gallery served both as a place of these contacts and as an archive of objects, documents, books and catalogs.
At the threshold of the 1980s, the founder of the Exchange Gallery became a member of Going Dutch Culture – an informal, alternative society of young artists in Łódź. At the same time, he launched international video cooperation Infermental. The activity of the Exchange Gallery and Robakowski himself as an artist, theoretician, lecturer, animator, and organizer inspired many similar initiatives in the 1980s (just in Łódź: Wschodnia Gallery, U Zochy, Czyszczenie Dywanów, Strych). Revisions, confiscation and censorship of correspondence led by the police and the Security Service were not strong enough to stop this activity. In that decade the Exchange Gallery made video documentation of alternative art actions, from performances to rock concerts and festivals. In 1987 the Exchange Gallery inaugurated international video art review Video Art Clip taking place in Wschodnia Gallery. The Exchange Gallery was the place of many film shows, discussions, and meetings, also. It is worth to mention some publications by the Exchange Gallery, especially books Nieme kino I (1983), PST! - sygnia nowej sztuki (1984), and ‘Uwaga’ magazine (six issues from 1980 to 1990). The summary of this period of the Exchange Gallery’s activities was the exhibition Lochy Manhattanu which was co-organized by Museum of Cinematography and took place in the basement of blocks of flats in Łódź in 1989.
From 1989 till 2002 the Exchange Gallery was led by Józef Robakowski together with Barbara Konopka, the artist specializing in video and performance art. Afterwards, until nowadays the only curator and owner of the gallery is Robakowski himself. However, the most important period of functioning of the Exchange Gallery was in the 1980s, both in artistic and socio-political sense. The gallery is still located in the artist’s flat in Łódź. It has never been institutionalized. It is as it was before - informal, maintained entirely from private funds of Robakowski. In 2016 the artist decided to donate the Exchange Gallery collection to Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw’s archive – objects are systematically being cataloged and preserved.
Description of content
Even before the establishment of the Exchange Gallery, Józef Robakowski had collected many things, both artworks and found objects, everyday life articles, values of which were rather ethnographic than artistic. This activity was continued by Robakowski after he launched the Exchange Gallery, so he conducted two parallel collections: private and the gallery.
The Exchange Gallery collection includes mainly objects that were donated to the Gallery within the social circuit of contemporary art: paintings, photos, movies, videos, art books, mail art, posters, and installations. A huge part of the Exchange Gallery collection includes correspondence among artists from Poland and abroad, as well as other documents. The collection contains also albums, catalogs, leaflets, brochures, and documentation of avant-garde and neo-avant-garde exhibitions and creations. Furthermore, the collection comprises of documentation of events from the martial law period in Poland.
- other artworks (that cannot be classified by other filter categories such as paintings, sculptures, graphics, etc.): 1000-
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Author(s) of this page
- Stanczyk, Xawery
Schwarz, Isabelle. "Exchange Gallery / Galeria Wymiany." In Archive fur Kunstlerbulikationen der 1960 er bis 1980 er Jahre. Koeln: Salon Verlag, 2008. http://www.exchange-gallery.pl/archiwa_publikacji.html.
Żywa Galeria. Łódzki progresywny ruch artystyczny 1969-1992, Warszawa: Zachęta, 1997.
Sztuka wymiany. Kolekcja Józefa Robakowskiego. Uśpiony kapitał 4, Warszawa: Fundacja Profile, 2013.
Robakowski, Józef , interview by Stanczyk, Xawery, August 28, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection