Honorata Martin Wins
VIEWS 2017 – Deutsche Bank Award

What remains of a life: From furniture, dishes, materials, and pictures that belonged to her late grandmother, Honorata Martin constructed a kind of shack that recalls improvised dwellings in favelas or nomads’ tents. For this very personal contribution to the VIEWS exhibition at the Zachęta in Warsaw, she has now received the Deutsche Bank Award. The prize is endowed with 15,000 euros.

Honorata Martin became known for actions in which she took herself to the physical and mental limits. For example, in one of her first videos she is sitting on a roof in temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius, clad only in a swimsuit, reading from the book The Shadow of the Sun (Heban) by the legendary Polish reporter Ryszard Kapuściński. For her most well-known action, Going out into Poland, Martin crossed her home country on foot in 2013. In two months, she walked from the Baltic Sea to Lower Silesia all by herself. For “Come and Take What You Want,” Martin invited the audience to her apartment and encouraged visitors to take anything they wanted.

The jury chose the artist due to her “sensitivity, courage, and consistency in building relations based on affirmation and not antagonisms, for honesty and sincerity in discovering and reinterpreting the social sphere.” The second prize, a fellowship to stay and work at the Villa Romana artists’ house in Florence, went to Przemek Branas, who deals with the interfaces between history and art history, truth and fiction. The point of departure of his video is the assassination of Gabriel Narutowicz, the first president of the Second Polish Republic. In 1922, on the way to a  exhibition, he was shot on the large staircase of Zachęta by a nationalist fanatic. In his video, Branas combines this historic event with a famous action by Chris Burden, who for Shoot had his assistant shoot him the arm with a rifle. In doing so, Branas took on the role of the body art artist himself.

Zachęta means “encouragement.” And indeed, Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, which opened in 1960 in downtown Warsaw, stands for the social and cultural commitment of the middle class, as well as the spirit of optimism of the young Polish nation and its self-assurance through art. In the meantime, the museum has become one of the most important forums for local and international contemporary art in Poland. The first installment of VIEWS, an exhibition showcasing artists nominated for the Deutsche Bank Award, took place here in 2003. The cooperation project with Deutsche Bank strengthens the country’s artistic infrastructure and every other year gives the public an overview of current tendencies in the Polish art scene. In 2016 VIEWS came to Berlin. With COMMON AFFAIRS the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle and the Polnisches Institut Berlin jointly presented a selection of works by prizewinners and nominees.This year’s nominees are very political. The jury, chaired by the painter Paulina Ołowska, one of the country’s most prominent contemporary artists, nominated five artists born between 1984 and 1987 who all take a stance on the current situation in Poland.  

The domestic political situation has hardened since the election victory of the national conservative PiS party. The government and the opposition seem to stand irreconcilably against each other. It is precisely this division of Polish society that is dealt with in this exhibition revolving around the most important contemporary Polish art prize, with a special focus on the increasing nationalism in the country. Thus, Ewa Axelrad investigates the fascination stemming from uniforms, flags, and male associations. She shows how a longing for a collective identity leads to ostracism and ultimately can culminate in violence.

Łukasz Surowiec’s project is also explicitly political. He designed a fashion collection oriented to the look of demonstrators from the autonomous political scene. Like in a boutique, visitors can purchase the clothing at Zachęta. They can also receive clothes in exchange for photos that prove that they took part in an anti-fascist demonstration. The photos submitted are to become part of an exhibition or book. Surowiec is less concerned with the production of works than with the creation of social situations in daily life.

A painter was also selected this year: Agata Kus. Her canvases conjure up painted collages. Actors and literary figures appear, as well as musician friends of hers. References to Caravaggio and films such as Murnau’s Nosferatu, are discernible. Kus represents a young, internationally oriented generation who, thanks to the Internet, get their inspiration from all over the world..
A.D.

VIEWS 2017 ― Deutsche Bank Award

until 12.11.2017
Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw