MONUMENT. Central and Eastern Europe 1918–2018

16 December 2018 – 10 April 2019
The Xawery Dunikowski Museum of Sculpture in Królikarnia, division of the National Museum in Warsaw

Magazine accompanying the exhibition

The exhibition focuses on a subject which has been stirring up emotions since as far back as the beginnings of organised societies. Monuments have been present in the European culture ever since Greek and Roman antiquity – single and group figurative forms such as statues, busts, or equestrian sculptures on the one hand and, on the other, architectural commemorative objects in the form of arches, obelisks, or gates.

Ever since the Renaissance, monuments have filled the squares and the lavish main city streets. They faithfully served the 17th century absolute monarchs, the 19 century nationalist ideology or the 20th century totalitarian systems. Torn down by revolutions, erected by emperors and victorious armies, they still commemorate, symbolise and dominate in the public space. In contemporary times, they represent the ever changing views of democratic societies. As time goes by, they not only become the background of city life but also objects of different grassroot actions. They even get local nicknames at times (as the “Gallows” in Olsztyn – the monument to the Liberation of the Warmia-Mazury Land, or the Warsaw monument commemorating the Brotherhood in Arms known as “The Sleeping Four”). Monuments can even be objects of anarchist resistance of the local communities as we know from the attempted blowing up of the statue of Lenin in Nowa Huta in 1979 or from the incident of the monument of the Red Army in Sofia being shot at with colour-dye bullets and then repainted.

Due to the complicated political events in the recent century in Central and Eastern Europe, processes of erecting, remodelling, and removing monuments have been taking place at an ominously accelerated pace. Treated as tools for forming a collective identity of newly independent states, monuments were in growing demand at the end of World War I and at the beginning of the new political division of Europe. A similar process again took place after World War II, when the region fell under the control of the USSR. The fate of the monuments which are associated with the former Soviet domination is a subject of much controversy today: some are torn down, moved to commemoration parks, or recycled into objects of a different purpose or meaning. The exhibits at the presentation will include, for example, a piece of a statue of the Polish Mother moved here from the town of Sejny. The monument was taken down as a result of the “decommunization law” of 1 April 2016, amended on 14 December 2017. In the years 1970 – 1982, the statue was known as a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Polish People’s Republic. Public consultations in Sejny are planned to take place at the time of the monument’s presentation at the exhibition – the local community and the town’s authorities are to decide whether it is to come back to the public space, and if so – under what name.

The exhibition at Królikarnia tells the story of monuments which are important for artistic, historical or social reasons, and which were erected in Poland or other countries of Central and Eastern Europe in the years 1918-2018. The presentation will also include those which, despite their undoubtful artistic quality, are criticised for having been made to commemorate specific political developments and powers. This is what happened, for example, to the so called spomeniks (a term borrowed from Serbian and Croat) which for years had been left in oblivion and only recently recalled and again admired for their incredible modernist form. These include Vojan Bakic’s works in Croatia or the Władysław Hasior’s monument to the Victims of Internal Struggle after World War II (otherwise known as The Organs). There has also been a rather hot discussion taking place about the monument of the Insurgence by Xawery Dunikowski on the Mount of St Anne.

By juxtaposing the examples from the different countries we would like to investigate whether the perspective of the relative community of experiences of Poland and other post-socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe has resulted in similar forms, logic and histories shared by the monuments of this region – whether there is a specificity of local commemorative activities unique to the entire region.

  • Plan of the exhibition:

  • Curatorial team under the leadership of Agnieszka Tarasiuk:
    Hubert Czerepok, Ania Miczko

    Academic council:
    prof. ASP dr hab. Waldemar Baraniewski
    dr hab. Irena Grzesiuk- Olszewska
    Piotr Nowicki
    dr Krzysztof Pijarski

    Participation in research:
    Klara Czerniewska-Andryszczyk, Zuzanna Derlacz, dr Mischa Gabowitsch, Alicja Gzowska, dr Iryna Laurouskaya, prof. Paweł Machcewicz, Marek Matyjanka, prof. Hana Pichova, dr Piotr Przybyła, Michał Siarek, dr Magda Szcześniak, Joanna Torchała, Anna Wandzel, Sylwia Zaremba, Ewa Ziembińska


    A series of guided walks: Following the Warsaw Monuments
    September – November 2018
    A series of walks presenting different aspects and histories of Warsaw monuments. The routes lead along the traces of historical and contemporary monuments, in the company of a professional tour guide and an expert in Warsaw, Hanna Dzielińska.

    Dates: 1, 8, 12, 16 September; 6, 13, 20, 27 October; 10, 17 November
    Information about the routes and the meeting sites is available on

    The exhibition is supplemented by a website dedicated to monuments in Central and Eastern Europe, which includes descriptions and histories of the presented monuments, interviews with their authors, information about the organised discussions and news about monuments in Poland and in the region.

    International conference
    The research component of the project is a conferences planned for March 2019 with the participation of artists, researchers and historians about the subject of commemoration in Central and Eastern Europe.


    Exhibition design
    Elżbieta Młynarczyk, Hubert Czerepok

    Graphic design
    Full Metal Jacket: Jerzy Gruchot, Wojciech Koss

    Ewa Kozik
    Zofia Jakubowicz-Prokop

    Antoni Burzyński

    Hermina Heintze, Aleksandra Kardaczyńska, Anna Wandzel, Charlie Smith

    Ewa Kanigowska-Giedroyć
    Anna Wandzel

    Museum of Sculpture Team
    Mariusz Grzelak
    Monika Janicka
    Barbara Kaliciuk
    Małgorzata Kowalczuk
    Anna Maciąga
    Andrzej Urbaniak


    Presented objects and documents come from collections of following institutions:
    Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie, Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej w Warszawie, Muzeum Architektury we Wrocławiu, Muzeum Górnośląskie w Bytomiu, Muzeum Tatrzańskie w Zakopanem, Muzeum Warszawy, Muzeum Historii Polski, Muzeum Zamoyskich w Kozłówce, Muzeum Auschwitz, Miasto Sejny, Archiwum Akt Nowych w Warszawie, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Archiwum Dokumentacji Naukowej i Technicznej, Archiwum Państwowe w Gdańsku, Archiwum Państwowe w Katowicach, Archiwum Państwowe w Opolu, Archiwum Państwowe w Suwałkach, Archiwum Państwowe w Warszawie, Białoruskie Archiwum Dokumentacji Naukowej i Technicznej, Instytut Sztuki PAN, Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, Biblioteka Główna Politechniki Warszawskiej, Stowarzyszenie Autorów ZAiKS, Bundesarchiv, Czeskie Archiwum Narodowe w Pradze, Czeska Agencja Prasowa CTK, oraz Muzeum Rzeźby im. Xawerego Dunikowskiego w Królikarni, Oddział Muzeum Narodowego w Warszawie.

    Magazine accompanying the exhibition: