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11 May 2005

In a few years, the Museum of contemporary Art will be erected at the intersection of Marszałkowska and Świętokrzyska streets. The construction of the museum, worth over zl.200 million, will be financed by the city and the national budget. The creators are also hoping for subsidies from the European Union.

Minister of Culture Waldemar Dąbrowski and Deputy Mayor of Warsaw Andrzej Urbański met March 16 at the planned construction site to sign an agreement concerning the investment. It is scheduled to open in 2008.

The Museum of Contemporary Art is meant to diversify Warsaw's list of tourist spots and improve the city's image. When Michał Borowski took office as city architect of Warsaw almost two years ago, he formulated a new concept for developing the very center of Warsaw. His plans included a building devoted to modern art near the Palace of Culture, on Defilad Square. Warsaw's artistic community long felt the need for a building that would house collections of modern art, to date stored at Zachęta Gallery and Ujazdowski Castle. Various locations and concepts were taken into consideration, but no decisions were made regarding a vacant area for the purpose and how the project might be financed. The project accelerated after Warsaw authorities joined in efforts to make the plans reality.

The museum's identity will be determined by its collections. Their character and the time frame of the works to be featured is still under discussion. What is certain is that they should differ from other collections. The success of many newly established museums has been built on the promotion of less well-known artists. Even if controversial, they nonetheless met with interest and attracted a lot of visitors. Other opinions call for a museum that is open to other art genres such as fashion, interior décor, industrial design, architecture, cinema, advertising and propaganda. For now, the museum's exhibit will include national museum collections, acquisitions and Polish and foreign donations as well as works on loan.

Mayor of Warsaw Lech Kaczyński is known for his cultural initiatives. His term has marked the opening of the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising and preparations for the Museum of Communism and the Copernicus Science Center in Powiśle. Kaczyński also supports the creation of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Muranów and has contributed zl.40 million to its implementation. He has now assigned land for the construction of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The director of the latest project-following appointment by the minister of culture-is Tadeusz Zielniewicz, who previously coordinated the revitalization project for the Royal Route. The new director says an international architectural competition will be launched in September with construction of the building to commence next year.
 

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11 May 2005

Warsaw Mayor Lech Kaczyński is committed to building SocLand-the Museum of Communism-in warsaw. Together with Andrzej Wajda and Jacek Fedorowicz, he has established a foundation of the same name and drafted its mission in four sentences: "Today, we do not like to remember it. But we cannot avoid asking just what communism was. It was the only utopia that became reality and took over one half of the world for half of a century. Its downfall began in Poland, and that is why a museum to present the transfixing power of the system, its presence and decomposition, should be created here."

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Solidarity, the movement that sparked a peaceful revolution in the Soviet bloc. It was the greatest victory in the Polish struggle for freedom, ours and that of others. By creating the Museum of Communism in the Palace of Culture of Science-originally named after Joseph Stalin-Poland is "conquering" and "capitalizing" the building-Europe's sixth tallest skyscraper. Today, this building will present the power of communism, its monstrous scale and eventual decline.

The spot where a monument of Stalin was to be erected-in front of the former Joseph Stalin Palace, on the square that was also supposed to be named after him-will house a headless statue of the leader. The Agora, planned on the Palace's axis where Defilad Square is today, will be a tribune. The entrance to SocLand will be located underneath the tribune. The entrance lobby will form an underground Freedom Forum, covered by a skylight and two 50-meter masts of glass and steel, which will become gigantic street lamps at night .

The SocLand foundation was always convinced that the Palace of Culture was the best home for a Museum of Communism, a system that sought world domination. An exhibition held thanks to a grant from the European Commission (as part of the Culture 2000 project) enabled visitors to explore the palace's legendary basement. Although nowhere near as mysterious as in spy novels, it provided a fantastic opportunity to see the pompous facade of communism with its less visible aspects, the carefully concealed grime, ugliness, poverty, fear and terror. In the basement, 10 meters below the entrance courtyard, an exhibition called SocLand opened in 2003. For over four months, 500 visitors came to see the exhibition each day. Together with a model of the future Museum on the front courtyard, the scenario that was devised showed a foretaste of how the history of Poland's fight for freedom could be incorporated into world history. The creators of the museum never wanted to narrow it down to simple contrasts like veterans and victims of the regime vs. traitors and persecutors. They wanted to show how communism was simply about craftily manipulated good intentions combined with terror and a dictatorship of the communist party. Millions of people were lured by the communist machine. Invasions and top-down revolutions would not have been successful in so many countries if communism had not promoted such an appealing vision of new people and a new system-appealing to both the masses and intellectuals.

The Museum's architectural design will carry visitors into that world and become a new icon of Warsaw's downtown area; it will reinterpret the Palace. From the courtyard before the entrance and from the underground Freedom Forum, visitors will see a historical honorary tribune forming a stone "photoplasticon" in the basement. A screen mounted on top will present documentaries made during communism. The head of Stalin's statue will lie in front of the tribune, on the Freedom Forum's floor. A maze will then lead visitors on. At the same time, through the skylight a glimpse of the Palace will be visible. Two central halls, 10 m wide and illuminated from above by the glass and steel masts, will be points of reference in the underground sequence of exhibition rooms. They will represent the Poles of Good and Evil. Three thousand of the 4,000 square meters of usable space will be located in the underground courtyard. The lower level and the adapted maze of the Palace's foundations will house a permanent exhibition, while the mezzanine will host temporary exhibitions held in relation to SocLand's international character.

The Museum of Communism will only reclaim the spot on which the Palace of Culture was built. It remains the symbol of the system which thanks to Polish Solidarity has become history. Communism's fate is in a museum that suits its utopian, socialist dreams and monstrous crimes.
 
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