*In May 2021, a new exhibition of works by Wilhelm Sasnal, one of the most outstanding contemporary Polish artists, will open at POLIN Museum. The exhibition will present the works in which Sasnal tackles the subject of the Holocaust and its remembrance. *
The exhibition is part of POLIN Museum program activities in which artists explore the history, culture and legacy of Polish Jews. A display of approximately sixty artworks has been planned—both the already existing ones, and the new ones which the artist will produce especially for the POLIN Museum exposition. The exhibition is expected to be a major event in the world of contemporary art—not only in Poland, but globally—for Sasnal is an artist whose works have been winning international acclaim for many years now.
In 2007, Wilhelm Sasnal was named number one in the ranking of the most distinguished artists of the young generation published by Flash Art, the leading European art magazine. In 2006, he was presented with the Vincent van Gogh Prize, a prestigious international award granted bi-annually to a European artist who—according to the jury—exerts a significant and lasting influence on contemporary art. Sasnal was also decorated with the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta “for an outstanding contribution to Polish culture, for achievements in the field of art and for social engagement.” Sasnal’s works enrich the best collections in the world, among them: Museum of Modern Art and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Tate Modern and Saatchi Gallery in London. The artist participated in numerous exhibitions abroad, both individual and collective, e.g. at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Camden Arts Centre in London, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam or at Kunsthalle Basel.
What lies behind Wilhelm Sasnal’s success? The artist is inspired by visual information derived from various sources and contexts, including the mass media: television, the Internet, and the press. He is also inspired by works of other artists whom he considers important. Obviously, he is also inspired by photography. Sasnal’s art deals with everyday life and with political transformations; it shows how his generation copes with the challenges posed by the surrounding reality. To be sure, this topic has been tackled by many artists, yet it remains forever relevant. For over a decade now, Sasnal has also been making films, both shorts and full-length. Like his paintings, the films have gained widespread recognition and won numerous prizes, also abroad. Anka Sasnal, the artist’s wife, is the films’ co-author. The relation between the eye and the memory, seeking visual language to convey a story that cannot be told otherwise—namely the Holocaust—is important in Sasnal’s oeuvre. His paintings often refer to other famous artworks, such as Art Spiegelman’s comic book Maus, Claude Lanzmann’s documentary Shoah, or Tadeusz Borowski’s short stories.
When asked why the Jewish topics, and the Holocaust in particular, are so important to him, Sasnal responds: It stems from a subconscious sense of loss which is extremely hard to define. Perhaps it is also about the sense of guilt which has been instilled in me—a Pole brought up in the Christian tradition. For sure, I did not choose Jewish topics out of sentiment; it was more due to my own personal concerns. Now it all seems easier to me, for I have processed those issues and I have named them. Jan Tomasz Gross was right when he said: “Poles should deal with this for their own sake, not for anybody else.