Contemporary art in the collection of Museum
Its aim has become to preserve material evidence of murderous activities of Nazi Germany in the camp as well as, upon its development and elaboration, to promote the knowledge by issuing different publications and organising museum exhibitions.
On 26 November 1944, the Museum opened the first art exhibition with drawings and watercolours by a Soviet painter Zinowij Tołkaczew. The collection was supplemented with further works over time. The sculptures created in the camp as well as handicraft pieces of work voted for permanent exposure were also exhibited.
In the beginning of the 1960s, the Museum co-organised art exhibitions under the slogan “Against the War”, which were subsequently renamed to International Arts Triennial. At that time, our Museum began an active process of collecting pieces of art, most of which relate to the subjects of anti-war activities and martyrdom. At present, the Museum has more than 6500 of such works which mainly include the works of Polish and foreign artists within the scope of painting, sculpture, medal engraving, photography, artistic posters and folk art. Additionally, the works collected encompass classic drawings in pencil, graphics created with the use of different flat and protuberant printing techniques as well as compositions based on the latest computer graphics techniques.
The artists whose compositions are currently located in the collections of contemporary art of the State Museum at Majdanek are, among others, Józef Szajna, Jacek Tybur, Masataka Kuroyanagi, Yuji Hiratsuka, Peter Zeiler, Karen Kunc, Maurice Pasternak and many others. The circle encompasses also a few artists from Lublin such as Ryszard Lis or Stanisław Bałdyga – a graphic designer whose compositions appeared in almost every edition of Triennial.
A particular phenomenon in the collections of contemporary art of the Museum at Majdanek is folk art. In 1986, the Association of Folk Artists and the Museum at Majdanek supported the organisation of the contest exhibition connecting anti-war topics with some elements of folk art. Only the best works were selected from the submitted ones and then incorporated to the museum collections. Subsequently, they became a part of a separate temporary exhibition which included oil paintings, works painted on glass as well as sculptures made of wood, stone and ceramic. The collection involves also examples of artistic blacksmithing. The connection between the elements of folklore and anti-war topics is extremely pregnant.
The premise and artistic message of the collections of contemporary art of the Museum at Majdanek are devoted to the victims of the Nazi brutality as well as to the ones who survived concentration camps. Starting from the 1960s, the State Museum at Majdanek has co-organised several smaller exhibition forms with the use of these collections. They were presented not only at the Museum, but also in other Polish and foreign cities. The rich collection of contemporary art enjoys high interest of many institutions borrowing artistic exhibits.