The Zachęta National Gallery of Art, the top art museum in Poland, is rocked by controversy over the selection of its new director who has no prior leadership experience.
The museum has selected Janusz Janowski to be its new director from next year. Janowski is a painter and a musician who has headed a branch of the Association of Polish Painters and Designers. However, he has no experience in leading an art institution. As such, his appointment to lead the top art museum in Poland has caused major controversy among the Polish art community.
Many see this move as part of the larger pattern of increasing government interference in the art institutions of the country. The controversy first started when it was announced that Hanna Wróblewska, the current director of the museum, would not see her tenure extended. Wróblewska had led the museum since 2010 and many applaud her efforts to bring the museum to the forefront of the art scene in Poland. As such, the refusal to extend her tenure, whom many saw as being in the prime of her career, was seen as a political move.
The appointment of Janusz Janowski came from Piotr Gliński, the Prime Minister of Poland. The Gliński government has already faced accusations of interfering with the art institutions of the country. In an op-ed, Anda Rottenberg (former director, Zachęta National Gallery) criticized the decision, saying: “Zachęta is in danger of switching to a program from the time of the Polish People’s Republic, without the avant-garde.” She also referred to a similar instance from two years ago at the Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw. The then-director of the museum, Małgorzata Ludwisiak, was forced to step down as the government indirectly sought control of the museum. Since then, the museum has faced severe protests from artists and people alike.