In the historical park, as in whole Królikarnia, history meets contemporariness. Among trees and bushes we create the Sculpture Park, a place for the presentation of selected works from the extensive collection of the National Museum in Warsaw.
The Story of the Sculpture Park in Królikarnia
The Sculpture Park in Królikarnia is both, constant work with the collection as well as a comment on the very phenomenon of collecting. At first, it was an eighteenth-century private English garden with seemingly wild nature, picturesque clearings and nooks to be discovered as one left the main alley to follow a less trodden path. The archival sketches show only two sculptures. The little bridge by the ravine was guarded by two slender and elegant lions. They have not survived and it remains to be found out whether the broken torso of a predatory animal in the Museum store is what has been left of them.
Today, the Sculpture Park in Królikarnia is part of a public institution – the Xawery Dunikowski Museum, opened in 1965. The first sculpture to be presented in the park was Dunikowski’s Fatum. The Soul Escaping the Body. It is probably the prototype of Antoni Cierplikowski’s tomb. Its replica can be found on the grave of this eccentric hairdresser and art mercenary in the de Passy cemetery in Paris. In the 1970s, a plein-air collection of contemporary sculpture, including works by Magdalena Więcek-Wnuk, was displayed in the gardens of the Wilanów Palace, which was still a section of the National Museum at the time. Another outdoor exposition of sculptures was staged in the Stanisław Lorentz Courtyard by the main building in Aleje Jerozolimskie – nowadays, a female nude by Edward Wittig, an inert naked body leaning against a tree stump and snoozing, is to be seen there. New objects have been appearing in Królikarnia since 2001, when the collection of sculpture was isolated from the collection of National Museum in Warsaw and transferred to the main building of the palace in the district of Mokotów. The majority of them were created in the 1930s-1980s by sculptors educated by pre-war professors, who specialized in realistic representation – thus works displayed in the park tend to be figurative. They are mounted on small plinths and, as a result, are accessible to everyone, including children and the blind. Olgierd Turszkowski’s Lying Man, Jekaterina Biełaszowa’s Dancer, or Geoffrey Armstrong’s Family have been placed directly on grass and are part of daily picnic scenes.
Some of the works displayed in the park refer to exhibitions held at the Museum such as, for instance, the one presenting sculptures by Maria Papa Rostkowska. Some objects have found their way into the collection of the National Museum, and to the park, by chance – to bear testimony to the politics of past days, unexpected donations or curators’ whims. Exploration of those contexts is crucial to our approach to the collection, strategies of compiling it, contemporary values and functions of the genre of sculpture, and limits which are particularly difficult to be defined nowadays.
Daily Life in the Sculpture Park
Sculptures are made of manifold materials: classical marble, glossy bronze, hard granite and concrete – inconspicuous at first, and present a review of possible techniques of knocking off, casting and other ways of moulding sculptural works. Weather conditions affect every type of material in a different fashion and, accordingly, methods of maintenance differ for particular pieces. Some have to be covered for autumn and winter, while others removed from the park to avoid exposition to dampness or frost as well as cracking.
It is our intention to add new objects to the Sculpture Park. Soon, an architectural/sculptural structure composed of fragments of concrete and ceramic sculptures and architectural decorations dating from the 1930s will be constructed. They were originally located in the courtyard of the Warsaw house of Bolesław Cybis (1895-1956), a painter, sculptor and ceramicist who emigrated to South America in 1939. The National Museum has obtained these objects not without perturbations, and they are accompanied by very little documentary material. Unfortunately, reconstruction of their original arrangement is not possible, so we have decided to create a new form for them. We are thus commencing an unprecedented project aimed to reuse about twenty sculptural pieces remaining from the collection of Bolesław and Maria Cybis. Combined to form a new whole in a clearing in the Sculpture Park, they will constitute a sort of an open room in the garden. The new structure will serve the function as a meeting place for the locals as well as an arena for various events organized by Królikarnia. In executing this project, we will be joined by Hanna Rechowicz (b. 1926), an eminent stage designer and landscape architect, who designed, together with her husband, legendary large-format mosaics at the Dom Chłopa as well as spatial compositions at the Supersam supermarket and the Szkoła Rzemiosł school in the 1970s. She is assisted by Jan Strumiłło – a young architect – the author of spectacular contest projects, including transformation of the prison in Vienna into a hotel.
Sculpture Parks Worldwide
There are about thirty significant sculpture parks in the world. Founded in different periods, they represent different conceptions and until the 20th century were mostly private enterprises. The idea of introducing sculptures into gardens dates from antiquity. Marble statues grace a rectangular pond at the Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli. The first modern museum of sculpture was established in Vatican at the beginning of the 16th century to display the pope’s collection of ancient works. Soon after that, the Villa d’Este was built in Tivoli, surrounded by a vast garden whose axis is formed by cascades of fountains, while sculptures are to be found at their consecutive levels, in hidden places and grottos. Spectacular park complexes were strongly dependent on wealthy patrons from the circles of state authorities or the church, and tended to be exclusive. Those stunning gardens enjoyed their prime in the 17th and 18th centuries. Absolute monarchies, such as those of Louis XIV and Louis XV of France or Peter I of Russia, financed the gardens of Versailles in Paris and the Petergof garden near St. Petersburg, where gilded statues compete with nature. Many 20th-century parks are works of single artists. The Vigeland Park in Oslo was created in 1907 by Gustav Vigeland himself; he designed the arrangement of sculptures as well as the entire park complex: its labyrinth-like architecture, illumination, the mosaic by the fountain and wrought iron gates to the park. In the Musée Rodin in Paris, the garden is the most beautiful part of the exposition in summer, with sculptures to be found everywhere one ventures to look, including The Thinker or the famous portrait of Honoré de Balzac. Hidden among trees, less known pieces have become an integral part of the nature in the garden. The most influential British sculptor, Henry Moore wrote: “Sculpture is an art of the open air. Daylight, sunlight, is necessary to it, and for me its best setting and compliment is nature. I would rather have a piece of my sculpture put in a landscape, almost any landscape, than in, or on, the most beautiful building I know.” His wish was fulfilled. It was exactly the emphasis on maintaining relations with nature and surroundings that inspired many sculpture parks established since the 1950s, including the Middelheim Open-Air Sculpture Museum in Belgium, 1950, and Kröller-Müller in Otterlo, the Netherlands, 1961, as well as those devoted to modern and contemporary sculpture: the Maeght Fundation near Nice, the Moderna Musset in Stockholm, the Luisiana Museum in Humlebeak, Danmark, the Billy Rose Art Garden in Jerusalem, the Hakone Open-Air Museum Gardens in Japan, the Storm King Art Center and the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden in the US. Displays at these places vary markedly, for instance, the Hirshhorn Museum conceives of its open-air exposition as a review of the history and evolution of modern and contemporary sculpture. Sculpture parks created from scratch as ever expanding exhibitions of topical art very often contain a most coherent collection of works, commissioned for a specific place with regard to its context as, for instance, in the Sculpture Park of the Warsaw district of Bródno.