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GDAŃSK: NOMUS. Free the art!

23.08.2019 City

A new art venue is being built in Gdańsk. New Art Museum NOMUS—open and communal—is a branch of the National Museum in Gdańsk to be located in the post-shipyard area. The first exhibition has recently had its premiere, showcasing the creation process of the museum.

The idea behind NOMUS originated in a new branch of the National Museum in Gdańsk devoted to the art from the 20th and 21st centuries and its aims are by all means ambitious. Firstly, the question arises as to the role of art institutions in the contemporary world. What is a museum? Isn’t it an institution that collects and exhibits artistically and historically valuable works of art and thus protects a cultural heritage? Contemporary museums accommodate to the needs of the viewer and the world with an aim to “write, read, publish, study, teach, listen, and look”. The presence of such an institution is especially welcome in Gdańsk, a city with a particularly turbulent past.

We are reaching out for our right, our local right to write our own history of art. We are looking for the specific and the unique, the past and the future. We are looking for anything that proves of value to our region and city in light of our beliefs in the freedom to create, express oneself, and conduct research - says Aneta Szyłak, NOMUS curator and founder.

NOMUS, a space for exhibitions, education, and research, is a response to the needs of a diverse audience and the challenges posed by contemporary art. Creators and curators alike want to use their own language to talk about art and take up the task to paint a meticulous and inclusive picture of art in Tricity in all its shapes and sizes, be it visual art, theater, music, photography, film, small publishing houses, and social-artistic movements. Part of their work will be to go beyond the visual and document projects that employ sound, movement, and performance to have a more profound influence on the viewer.

Elżbieta Jabłońska, installation New Life, 2010, photo: Mateusz Macur


Anna Królikiewicz, Simple Traces, 2016

Anna Orbaczewska-Niedzielska, Untitled, 2017

Michał Szlaga, Shipyard 1999–2013

The venue is currently under construction, with an opening scheduled for November 2020. Meanwhile, the work on the collection is in progress. The first exhibition featuring a part of the collection has just been opened to the public.

“NOMUS. Collection under construction” showcases the Gdańsk Collection of Contemporary Art. Approximately 165 artworks by 29 artists have been selected from among the works purchased for NOMUS by the city of Gdańsk in 2017 and 2018. The aim of the exhibition is to acquaint the public with the creation process behind our collection. Apart from the Green Gate, two large-scale objects have been installed in the public space: Jerzy Bohdan Szumczyk’s “SOS” in front of the main building of the National Museum, the Department of Ancient Art, and Elżbieta Jabłońska’s “Nowe Życie”, a neon installed on the facade of the NOMUS building in Młode Miasto, a post-shipyard area.

And what is there to see, you ask? Selected artworks are of general yet representative nature, giving you a glimpse into the idea behind the NOMUS collection. Curators focus on the Other, stress the role of women in contemporary art (choosing work of Anna Baumgart, Bogna Burska and Zuzanna Janin among others), point to the importance of documentary photography in the creation of reality and the image of art (Jerzy Wierzbicki’s and Michał Szlaga’s photographs), tell the difficult history of Gdańsk and the Shipyard (Zorka Wollny, Jacek Niezgoda), and ponder upon the identity of the place (Anna Królikiewicz). It is crucial to fill in the gaps in existing museum holdings of artworks and documents from the 1980s and 1990s—decades of great importance due to political upheavals and social transformations that changed art in Tricity. The first purchases of the 1980s art—Sławomir Witkowski’s graphic art and poster—were a big step in that direction.

Exhibition view, photo: Maja Bieńkowska

Exhibition view, photo: Maja Bieńkowska

Exhibition view, photo: Maja Bieńkowska

Exhibition view, photo: Maja Bieńkowska

NOMUS is an open and grassroots initiative, actively seeking archival material. Importantly, to document art is to document artistic lives in the form of photographs and recordings capturing artists’ engagement, activities of artistic groups, informal movements, places. NOMUS encourages everyone to contribute to museum holdings: “We want to acquire documents that show not only what exhibitions and events looked like in the past, but also the social life of artists and the nature of art education”. Individuals and organizations interested in donating any documents to NOMUS are kindly requested to contact the museum at After all, the public also creates art, doesn’t it?



Exhibition NOMUS. Collection under construction

When: opening Aug 1, 2019, 6 pm; open through October 13, 2019
Where: National Museum in Gdańsk / The Green Gate
ul. Długi Targ 24, 80-828 Gdańsk

Curators: Aneta Szyłak, Małgorzata Taraszkiewicz-Zwolicka


head photo: Krzysztof Wróblewski, Shipyard|Westerplatte, 2006

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