The history of gallery and the Studio Art collection

The history of gallery and the Studio Art collection


Jerzy Grzegorzewski Studio Gallery


Galeria Studio was founded in Warsaw by Józef Szajna. In 1972, when Szajna became director of Teatr Klasyczny [The Classic Theatre] located in the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, he intended to lead it towards the new spirit of the time. He changed its name to Teatr Studio [Studio Theatre] and commissioned the architect Oskar Hansen to rebuild its interior. Hansen planned to reverse the stage-audience relationship by building mobile seating and balconies, and thereby interweave the space of the actor and the viewer. This reconstruction was never completed, but the projects done by Oskar Hansen and his team at the Experimental Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, between 1972-80, can now be found at the Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. The gallery showed them in the exhibition From the Archives of Galeria Studio in 2016. 

However, it was possible to create a new place for contemporary art and to start an important art collection. During Szajna’s time as director, Galeria Studio exhibited Polish and international artists of the Neo-Avant-Garde, including: Edward Dwurnik and Jerzy Kalina (1975), Jan Berdyszak (1975), Robert Rehfeldt and Ruth Wolf Rehfeldt (1975), Stuart Brisley (1975), Od Nowa Group (1976), Ryszard Winiarski (1976), Wolf Vostell (1976), Natalia Lach-Lachowicz (1978), Marek Konieczny (1978), Krzysztof Zarębski (1980), Mario Merz (1981) and Sol LeWitt (1981). The gallery also organised concerts by young bands such as Ossjan (1973), Maanam (1975) and Tilt (1979). Occasionally Szajna also exhibited his own art at the gallery. At the beginning of the 1980s, he invited the young performance group Akademia Ruchu [Academy of Movement] to Studio Theatre as they had been deprived of their permanent location. The gallery was managed throughout this period by Andrzej Ekwiński (1975-78), Zdzisław Sosnowski (1978-81) and Andrzej Skoczylas (1981-82). The collection was initially not large, by 1976 it contained 85 works, however these included some exceptional pieces by some of the most significant Polish artists, among them: Jerzy Bereś, Jerzy Kałucki, Alfred Lenica, Zbigniew Makowski, Jerzy Nowosielski, Stefan Gierowski, Teresa Pągowska, Erna Rosenstein, Henryk Stażewski, Jonasz Stern, Jan Tarasin and Ryszard Winiarski. During this period however the title ‘collection’ was not used, the exhibition of contemporary art in the theatre's spaces was intended to be the beginning of a museum, and this term was used in the initial phase of its existence. At this time there was no museum of contemporary art in Warsaw, nor a permanent exhibition of current Polish art. 

From 1982-95, the gallery was under the leadership of Zbigniew Taranienko. He changed the programme, preferring classical genres such as painting, sculpture and graphics. In these years the size of the collection increased considerably. In 1997, it counted 800 objects. Today the collection of Galeria Studio constitutes nearly a thousand artworks by a range of significant artists including: Ewa Partum, Natalia Lach-Lachowicz, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Krystyna Piotrowska, Krystiana Robb-Narbutt, Barbara Falender, Wojciech Fangor, Koji Kamoji, Grzegorz Kowalski, Tomasz Ciecierski, Włodzimierz Jan Zakrzewski, Jerzy “Jurry” Zieliński, Jan Dobkowski, Krzysztof M. Bednarski, Edward Krasiński and Andy Warhol. The collection also includes Józef Szajna’s own complex installation Ślady (1972-1982).The core of this work is an unusual complex of props, including mannequins and objects used in the first staging of the play Replica at the Edinburgh International Festival in 1972. 

Later directors of Galeria Studio included Grzegorz Pabelfrom (1995-2006), who strengthened ties with the local artistic community and the Painting Department of the Academy of Fine Arts, and Krzysztof Żwirblis (2006-12) who returned to the neo-avant-garde sources of Józef Szajna’s programme. Agnieszka Zawadowska was director from 2012-15 and put an emphasis on modern and contemporary art, as well as stage design. In 2012 Galeria Studio was formally re-named after Jerzy Grzegorzewski, a distinguished theatre director and artist who ran Theatre Studio in from 1982-97.




In 2018 Galeria Studio launched a long-term program for the conservation and protection of the collection. 

Due to the complex and varied character of the collection a special program needed to be developed which could provide optimal care for the many different artistic media in the collection, including painting, assemblage, drawing, print, sculpture, spatial installation, and textiles, as well as a unique body of work by Józef Szajna. The latter includes Szajna’s large spatial work Ślady [Traces] from 1972/1982, consisting of nearly 200 objects including theatre props and mannequins from the set of the production Replica, and spatial paintings from his environment Reminiscencje [Reminiscences] and many other objects made in various techniques. These works of art require a special approach which combines conservational know-how and expert knowledge in the field of art history. 

In April 2018 Galeria Studio begun the process of reorganising the collection. This ranged from logistical activities, to anticipating and counteracting possible dangers to the collection, and integrating processes to avoid, minimise and slow down possible deterioration of objects in the collection. Thanks to a special subsidy from the Municipal Office of Warsaw, received in July 2018, the project has evolved and gained technical as well as material resources. The alarming state of the storage space required urgent modification. We have modernised the old space, rented new space and designed and built new furniture adequate for long term storage. This has allowed us to arrange works of art in terms of execution technique and provide them with separate rooms to monitor microclimatic conditions. We have also created an ongoing conservation and maintenance project for the artworks. Conservational work has been carried out on works which were in the most urgent condition. 

The collection of Galeria Studio is important cultural heritage of exceptional value. Next to the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, it is the largest collection of 20th and 21th century art belonging to the city of Warsaw. The long term conservational program will enable us to show a wider range of artworks than before and to loan them for exhibitions outside of Galeria Studio.