PGS: Sopot's World Famous Art Gallery

more than a year ago
Sopot is often unfairly associated with its overly-indulgent nightlife and the social elite that are focused on the business side of things. While these two colourful motifs ring true after dark, Sopot is a completely different beast during the day, and both locals and visitors who are in pursuit of cultural enlightenment and the arts, are bound to find themselves in the presence of Państwowa Galeria Sztuki w Sopocie (PGS) - the State Art Gallery in Sopot.

(PGS) - the State Art Gallery in Sopot.
Originally established in Sopot in 1952, the gallery was part of the cultural rebirth of the city following WWII and was born out of the Festival of Fine Arts, which were inaugurated in Sopot in 1948. It was renamed the State Art Gallery in 1992 and, when its old home was demolished to make way for the new Spa House complex, it moved into a purpose-built area in the new development. Despite the prime location and the prestige associated with the main building, Sopot art gallery remains unassuming and something of a best-kept-secret in Poland's favourite party town.

Visitors can expect to find a calendar of regularly-changing temporary exhibitions spread over 3 floors (a total of 1,200m²) which continue to highlight the work of artists working in a wide range of modern and traditional art practices from all over the world. The most famous Polish artists have been displayed here, as well as some of the most recognised names internationally, as well as up-and-coming creatives - something that PGS certainly has an eye for! While most 'city galleries' are focused primarily on exhibiting domestic contemporary art, PGS has been able to rise above these constraints, thanks to the support of the city council and other funding bodies, and has displayed a truly impressive repetoire of exhibitions during its lifetime. The gallery is known for its unique approach in curating historic works along side comtemporary ones, as well as exhibiting art collections under the name of the collector, rather than a featured artist. It's this individual approach that has earned the State Art Gallery in Sopot the reputation of being one of the best art galleries in Poland.

In addition to the exhibition of art, the gallery space also lends itself to a range of other events throughout the year. The top level features a a two-tier gallery space complete with a high-quality sound and lighting system that is ideal for live music, art forums and workshops, all with the aim of bringing the artistic community together. Having face-to-face meetings and interactivity between the exhibiting artist, collector and the audience is particularly important for the gallery board, and, more broadly, bringing art to the attention of young and old.
The entry of PGS - the State Art Gallery of Sopot.

From Black Mountain College to Pop Art. Post-war American art and documents from the Archiv der Avantgarden
Od Black Mountain College do Pop Artu. Powojenna sztuka amerykańska i dokumenty z Archiv der Avantgarden

When it comes to the far-reaching achievements of PGS's history, this exhibition is, without a doubt, one of the most important not to mention 'internationally star-studded'. From Black Mountain College to Pop Art was a first-hand look at the evolution of avant-garde art practices in post-war USA, taken from the collection at the equally-prestigious Archiv der Avantgarden (ENG: State Collection of Avantgarde Art) in Dresden, Germany. Pictures, sculptures, installations, architectural sketches, photos, film and music and much more have been curated for the exhibition, providing important testimonials of innovative practices that were taking place across the Atlantic. Arranged in chronological order of trends and phenomena, artistic groups and their works, including Black Mountain College, Fluxus, pop art, minimal art, post-minimalism, conceptual art and the land art movement are presented as a sort of visual essay to give visitors an understanding of this evolution.
Original works on display in the Od Black Mountain College do Pop Artu exhibition in PGS Sopot. Photo by Jerzy Bartkowski.

Artists featured in the exhibition included Andy Warhol, Josef Albers, Carl Andre, Stephen Antonakos, Hazel Larsen Archer, Walter Darby Bannard, George Brecht, Bill Bollinger, John Cage, Peter Campus, Chuck Close, Jim Dine, Dan Flavin, Buckminster Fuller, Robert Grosvenor, Al Hansen, Dick Higgins, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Ray Johnson, Allan Kaprow, On Kawara, Alison Knowles, Willem de Kooning, Sol LeWitt, Roy Lichtenstein, George Maciunas, Charlotte Moorman, Robert Motherwell, Bruce Nauman, Louise Nevelson, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Man Ray, Ad Reinhardt, Larry Rivers, Dorothea Rockburne, Carolee Schneemann, Paul Shartis, Robert Smithson, Frank Stella, Sun Ra, Richard Tuttle, Cy Twombly, Robert Watts and Lawrence Weiner.
Some of the more minimalist works in the Od Black Mountain College do Pop Artu exhibition. Photo by Jerzy Bartkowski.


By definition, Fotomorgana is a term given to art and photography where the objects within the work have been arranged to give a specific visual impression. Thus, the photography specially selected for this exhibition were purposefully composed in such a way, and involved some sort of complex procedure in order to acheive such an effect. As part of this idea, PGS took an unusual approach of presenting the science behind each work, in the form of a war-affected building and a number of diaoramas, scenographies and closed performance events. This allowed the audience to better understand this phenomenon, that being the formation of an apparent image by means of the forced attitude of the recipient - In other words, the fallibility of our own eyesight. 
Excerpt of the poster for the Fotomorgana exhibition at PGS Sopot.

Decisions around the Fotomorgana exhibition were made with a high amount of respect for art practices, and a huge amount of consultation was done in order to present the exhibition in such an ambitious way. Numerous meetings with the artists themselves, all of whom hail from Poland, helped to contribute towards the curatorial process, as well as collectors and key individuals dealing with the periphery of photography. Artists involved in Fotomorgana included Mikołaj Długosz, Przemysław Duda, Magdalena Franczuk, Weronika Gęsicka, Florian Green, Wiesław Jarmułowicz, Kacper Kowalski, Kobas Laksa, Iza Magnuszewska, Marek Mazanowski, Irena Nawrot, Łukasz Owczarzak, Karol Palczak, Urszula Pieregończuk, Jacek Piotrowicz, Rudi Rapf, Andrzej Sobiepan, Patrycja Sobiepan, Jacx Staniszewski, Grzegorz Wójcik, Marek Wrzesiński, Anna Wypych, and the exhibition curator himself, Robert Kuśmirowski.

 *** TO FREEDOM. Polish Art of the 80s and 90s from the Collection of Werner Jerke from Recklinghausen
KU WOLNOŚCI. Polska Sztuka XX i XXI wieku prace z kolekcji Wernera Jerke z Recklinghausen

This exhibition presented a selection of over 60 works of politically-subversive and socially-engaged art, some of which are legendary and have been reproduced numerous times. These were provided from one of the largest Polish art collections outside of Poland, assembled by one Werner Jerke and kept tight in Recklinghausen, Germany. ***To Freedom featured Polish art of the 80s and 90s, a time when the country was undergoing heavy political and social changes, aspects of which are reflected across the collection. It also represented a cross-section of art collectives from around the country: Members of the Warsaw Gruppa - Ryszard Grzyb, Paweł Kowalewski, Jarosław Modzelewski, Włodzimierz Pawlak, Marek Sobczyk, Roman Woźniak - as well as Wrocław's Luxus, Łódź Kaliska, Grupa Ładnie, the likes of Edward Dwurnik and Leon Tarasewicz, and artists of the younger generation, such as Radek Szlaga.
Works from the Ku Wolnośći (ENG: ***To Freedom) exhibition. Photo by Jerzy Bartkowski.
The exhibition was also an opportunity to get to know a bit more about the elusive collector himself. While his works are recognisable enough in Poland, virtually nothing is known about Werner Jerke. While he may be German in name, Jerke is very much Polish, having been originally born in Gliwice in Silesia and moving to Germany at the age of 24. Aside from his professional life as an ophthalmologist and winemaker, his passion and expertise shine in the collection of Polish art, of which he owns several hundred items. Jerke is known for being incredibly discerning in his collecting, choosing accurately and with sensitivity, and favouring works from the Polish avant-garde movement of inter-war and post-war modernity.
Works from the Ku Wolnośći (ENG: ***To Freedom) exhibition. Photo by Jerzy Bartkowski.

Photography at the Crossroads. Works from Cezary Pieczyński Collection.
Fotografia na rozdrożach. Prace z kolekcji Cezarego Pieczyńskiego

Coming from various directions of trends and practical areas, the works featured in Photography at the Crossroads showed a broad perspective, starting with the 19th-century pioneers to the photographic avant-garde and their heirs, as well as conceptualists, contesters, and contemporary artists. Despite the historic range of Cezary Pieczyński's collection, the decision was made to curate based on 'Abstraction', discerning the common motifs and representative figures of these works, rather than anything chronological. This encouraged a more subjective look at each photograph's creative approach, as well as emphasising certain ideas and motifs that were predominant in various time periods and how they compare from a modern perspective.
Works in the Photography at the Crossroads. Works from Cezary Pieczyński Collection exhibition. Photo by Jerzy Bartkowski.

A long list of incredibly important artists are featured in Pieczyński's collection, these include the works of Paul Strand, who helped pioneer modernist photography in the early 20th century; the American portrait photographer Berenice Abbott; New York LGBT photographer Nan Goldin; Chinese artist Zhang Huan; Life Magazine photographer Horace Bristol; and numerous artists from Poland who have made significant contributions to the Polish photography movement - Anna Kutera, Zdzisław Beksiński, Bronisław Schlabs, Leonard Sempoliński, Zdzisław Sosnowski, Jarosław Kozłowski, Ryszard Waśko, Janusz Bąkowski, Zbigniew Dłubak just to name a few!
Photo-series on display at Photography at the Crossroads. Works from Cezary Pieczyński Collection exhibition. Photo by Jerzy Bartkowski.

y as in youth
m jak młodość

mBank, one of Poland's leading banking groups, is a recognised name across the country. A lesser known fact is their foray into art collection, which kicked of in the 1990s and was previously focused on classical works of art. More recently, however, they have focused their attention on collecting works produced by the youngest generation of Polish artists - those on the cusp of adulthood. This initiative was aimed to stimulate the domestic art market and investing in emerging artists. A collaboration with the State Art Gallery was inevitable, and the resulting exhibition was titled m jak młodość exhibition (best translating as 'Y as in Youth' in English, though the word play gets lost in translation).
Plastonomicon by Marta Antoniak, part of the m jak młodość exhibition at PGS Sopot. Photo by Jerzy Bartkowski.
m jak młodość was divided into three sections. The first, entitled Obserwatorzy świata (ENG: Observers of the World), presented works that took a broader or close-up look at the artists surrounding reality - family and relations, the idea of being Polish, pop culture and current issues such as the coronavirus. The second section, Kim jestem? Kim jesteś? (ENG: Who am I? Who are you?), presented works that addressed the personal experiences and traumas of the artist, detailing the spectrum of emotions that come with each. In the final section, Metafory. Rebusy. Ukryte narracje (ENG: Metaphors. Rebuses. Hidden narrations) presents abstract works that balance figurativeness and abstraction. Artists featured in this exhibition included Julia Woronowicz, Anna Grzymała, Filip Kampka, Monika Misztal, Karolina Jabłońska, Tomasz Kręcicki, Zofia Pałucha, Marta Antoniak, Agata Słowak, Monika Misztal, Martyna Czech, Łukasz Stokłosa, Sasa Lubińska, Lena Achtelik, Paulina Stasik, Bolesław Chromry, Urszula Madera, Natalia Załuska, Tomek Baran, Jan Eustachy Wolski, Mikołaj Sobczak, Jan Możdżin and Jakub Gliński.
Works in the m jak młodość exhibition at PGS Sopot.  Photo by Jerzy Bartkowski.


My i psy, psy i my
Us and Dogs, Dogs and Us

My i psy, psy i my exhibition at PGS Sopot  Photo by Jerzy Bartkowski.
Man's best friend has been the subject of countless works of art since the earliest know point of human history, a universal character embraced across all countries and cultures. Dogs are an important part of many lives and are frequently taken up as a point of artistic inspiration by both professional and amateur artists alike. The exhibition My i psy, psy i my (ENG: Us and Dogs, Dogs and Us) was organized by the State Gallery of Art in Sopot with the intention of highlighting the omnipresence of the loyal pooch in all facets of life. Not surprisingly, it was immensely popular with the general public, attracting a wide range of visitors, many of them new to the world of art. The fact that many of these newcomers have since gone on to become regular visitors of the gallery is a sign that PGA is succeeding in their mission statement! 

The exhibition was planned as a broad panorama of Polish art, presenting various artistic fields - paintings, sculptures, drawings - from the 18th century, through the 19th and the interwar period, and to the present day. The works were selected from both public collections (National Museum in Warsaw, District Museum in Toruń) as well as private collections.
My i psy, psy i my exhibition at PGS Sopot. Photo by Jerzy Bartkowski.

Władysław Hasior. Prace z kolekcji Galerii Starmach
Władysław Hasior: A collection of works from the Starmach Gallery

Władysław Hasior. Prace z kolekcji Galerii Starmach
exhibition at PGS in Sopot. Photo by Jerzy Bartkowski.
Zakopane artist, Władysław Hasior, was known for his provocative and emotionally-challenging works that ranged in medium from sculpture to painting and even theatrical set design. Having been based in the mountainous south of Poland - notably Podhale and the Tatras - he produced art that very much reflected both the geographic and cultural influence of the area. It was these aspects that first attracted the attention of Kraków-based collector Andrzej Starmach, who committed to Sztandar Baranka Wielkanocnego (ENG: Banner of the Easter Lamb), the first of many hundreds of a work that would enter his collection.

Such deep-rooted religious themes and imagery are predominant in many of the artist's works, often taking on the form of Eastern Orthodox Khorugvi (ENG: banners/standards) and other forms of iconography. Elsewhere in the Starmach collection are Sonata księżycowa (ENG: The Moonlight Sonata) and Polski chleb (ENG: Polish Bread), examples of how found-objects, many of them gleaned from the banks of the Dunajec river or in Lemko villages, have been key inspirations behind Hasior's style. Many of the works in the Starmach collection come from the 1960s and early 1970s, Hasior's most creative period. Upon curating the Kraków-based collection in the State Art Gallery in Sopot, the inclusion of the 1963–1964 work Monte Cassino, featuring a glass gallon preserving an underwater graveyard, was certainly expected, as it provided an appropriate connection between Hasior and the city itself.
Works displayed at the Władysław Hasior. Prace z kolekcji Galerii Starmach exhibition in Sopot. Photo by Jerzy Bartkowski.

If you're interested in visiting PGS Art Gallery in Sopot, make sure you check out our What's On? section. Various ticket prices are available for different individuals and groups:

-Normal Ticket 10zł
-Reduced Ticket 7zł
-Family Ticket 18zł
-Children under 7 years FREE
-Sopot Residents (with Sopot Card) 5zł
-Yearly Ticket (1 person) 100zł
-Yearly Ticket (2 people) 150zł

Remember that FRIDAYS are FREE ENTRY!
Those with a Metropolitalna Karta do Kultury are entitled to a 15% discount for normal, reduced and family tickets.
For more ticketing information, please visit the PGS website (in Polish).


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