“100 x TeArt. Józef Szajna’s Freedom”. An unusual exhibition at the Silesian Museum in Katowice

“100 x TeArt. Józef Szajna’s Freedom” is the title of the largest exhibition to date dedicated to eminent artist Józef Szajna, who celebrates his 100th birthday this year. Due to the drama of the Ukrainians, who have suffered unimaginable harm as a result of Russian aggression, the exhibition takes on a unique dimension. Its subject matter becomes thematic in the context of the war, which until recently seemed only a sad memory from the past.

To celebrate the centenary of Szajna’s birth, the Silesian Museum has prepared a retrospective exhibition entitled “100 x TeArt. Józef Szajna’s Freedom”. The title word comes from a group of meanings: art and theater. 100 works were collected in the exhibition, which gave the artist the opportunity, his works (stage designs, paintings, installations) were shown and his statements were widely cited. For Szajna, the primary value was freedom, which was bestowed upon him by his boundless creation. Its original organic theater was difficult to perceive, disturbing and infuriating the viewer, and showing the most important message through the form.

Photo: From the collection of the Silesian Museum in Katowice

Joseph Sajana – “Reminiscences” (1969-1990)

The exhibition room was divided into seven semantic circles. The themes are camp experiences, signs, and metaphors characteristic of Szagna’s work, theater of panic, and a conjoined world – concepts relating to artistic narrative theater. The areas illustrating the ideas were also distinguished: “Man is the subject, not the subject of the world” and “By work has become an optimist.” In the last part, entitled “Theater is My Intimate”, selected paintings from the important series “Lamentations and Apotheosis” are shown. The most important installation memories are shown with the quotation:

The theater was built by Szajna according to the principle of arrangement, the sequence of images, which is shown in the arrangement. Narrative areas are characterized by theatrical performances of various sizes. The entrance to the room leads through the silhouette cut into the black wall – a symbolic void, the most famous sign of our sage. An animation of Ewa Kucharska was shown on the back of the screen. The artist brought fragments of an anthill, pictures of the camp and shadows in her work. Among the shaky images, the viewer steps into the depths of Sagnoa’s reality, casting a shadow over the director, and seeing the inscription:

Zagin spoke aloud about the fate of a man subject to oppression. Expressive, rhythmic and irregular music composed by Alexandre Lasso for the play “Traces” complete the impressions.

Curator: Julanta Nidoba. Exhibition Duration: June 3, 2022 – January 8, 2023

Photo: Silesian Museum

“100 x TeArt. Józef Szajna’s Freedom”. An unusual exhibition at the Silesian Museum in Katowice


Josef Szagna was born on March 13, 1922 in Rzeszow, and died on June 24, 2008 in Warsaw. One of the greatest artists in the world of theater and art. Painter, set designer, director, theater theorist, creator of original and innovative shows. He has presented his work in several hundred solo and group exhibitions almost all over the world. Creator and Director of Studio Teatr-Galeria Art Center in Warsaw. Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, founder and head of the Graduate Department of Theater Design. Honorary doctorates from several universities. Participant in the fight against fascism. Concentration Camp Prisoners: Auschwitz and Buchenwald. After the war, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. In 1955-1965, he conducted avant-garde artistic activities at the Ludowy Theater in Nowa Huta. The following performances were created: “Mice and People” by J. Steinbeck (1956), “Names of Power” by J. Prozkiewicz (1957), “Dziadi” by A. Mickiewicz (1962). In 1962 he collaborated with Jerzy Grotowski in the film “Acropolis” by S. Wisbyansky at the 13-row theater in Opole. He created his own shows: “Faust”, “Replica” (1971), “Witkacy” (1972), “Gulgutiera” (1973), “Dante” (1974), “Cervantes” (1976), “Majakowski” (1978) ) , “Relics” (1992), “The Remains” (1995), “Déballage” (1997). In 2007, the foundation stone was laid for the hill of remembrance and reconciliation in Auschwitz – the city of peace.

During the German occupation, he was a participant in the resistance movement, was active in the Union of Armed Struggle, which started the Fatherland Army. In January 1941, he was arrested in Slovakia while trying to reach Hungary. He was imprisoned successively in Muszyna, Nowy Sącz and Tarnów, and finally, in July, he was transferred to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp as Prisoner No. 18729.

Photo: From the collection of the Silesian Museum in Katowice

Joseph Sajana – “The Red-Gloved Figure” (1967)

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