Temporary exhibitions

Figures of Speech. The Architectural Sculpture of Warsaw 1918–1970

14 June – 11 October 2015

Opening: 15 June 2015 at 6:00 p.m.


The architectural sculpture of Warsaw usually brings to mind Socialist Realism and the rhetoric of propaganda, but for sure it is not entirely what it seems. Few know how many Socialist Realist sculptures really adorn the edifices of the capital city. Few are able to correctly name from memory all the figures that cast glances from above at people in the area of Konstytucji Square. The only thing we know about the architectural sculpture of Warsaw is that it exists, and that’s basically it.


If so, what do the eponymous rhetorical figures mean for the contemporary viewer? Do the younger generations also perceive them as a tool of propaganda? Is there a radical difference between the current public commissions and those from half a century ago? These and other questions that concern the current situation are the topic of artists’ works presented in the exhibition and the collateral publication. 


The old propaganda still stirs emotions, even though these may not necessarily be the emotions expected by the state authorities as a commissioner. Today, sculptures on the facades can surprise and intrigue us or provoke outbursts of laughter. They can also inspire new works by contemporary artists. The exhibition Rhetorical Figures features projects by Katy Bentall, Matthew Darbyshire and Maya Gordon, inspired by the sculptural decorations of the Marshal’s Residential District in central Warsaw, and a monumental work by the Hungarian collective Little Warsaw titled Marble Arch.


The exhibition is accompanied by an academic publication that recapitulates more than one year of research pursued in collaboration with the Institute of Art History of the University of Warsaw, featuring texts by Prof. Waldemar Baraniewski, Dr Ewa Toniak, Dr Hab. Marta Leśniakowska, among other scholars, and unique visual documentation by Szymon Rogiński. We hope that the publication will fuel further research and, importantly, protection of this extraordinary outdoor art galley – the architectural sculptures of Warsaw. We have also created a purpose-designed map of walking tours that follow the outdoor sculptures in the city, complete with an elaborate Polish-English audio guide. The youngest visitors will surely enjoy our memory game with the most fascinating photographs of the capital city architectural sculpture!


Curator: Alicja Gzowska

Initiatiors of the project: Agnieszka Tarasiuk, Katarzyna Kucharska-Hornung

Architecture of the exhibition: Piotr Bujas (BADR)

Graphic Design: Poważne Studio


Website of the project available here

Trailer available here