Festivals & Exhibitions: Spring 2006
By the time you read this, we hope that the birds will have finally returned from their tropical adventures, that it's possible to abandon what you might call 'eskimo chic', and that the mysterious ball of light in the sky, last spotted many, many months ago, will have at last returned from wherever it was. That's right, Spring is coming, and Cracovians are not indifferent to this fact. Indeed, that's something of a gross understatement. After one of the coldest and longest winters in living memory, even the snow-loving Poles are aching to see the last of the white stuff.
However, the golden rule in Poland is always expect the unexpected. Only the foolish man welcomes the stork before the birch is in blossom, or to put it bluntly, never trust the bison that behaves like the beaver. Ok, so we made up those proverbs, but the point is, the beetroot grows twice as boldly in the thunderstorm. But enough silliness. For come what may, the good news is that Spring is set to be a corker regardless of weather, as Cracow's cultural cats - and a host of international ones as well - are falling over themselves to entertain you this season. So without further ado, scroll downwards to discover all that's cooking in the city of Prince Krak.
(Above): The centrepiece of the National Gallery's miniature Chagall show 'Commedia dell 'Arte' , under the banner of 'Frankfurt Days In Krakow'.
Major Events: April/May 2006
3rd Misteria Paschalia Festival
(April 13th - 17th)
Now in its third year, this short but sweet festival is a must for lovers of classical music. Leading ensembles from across Europe will be performing compositions inspired by Holy Week. This year, Italian groups predominate, and the bulk of the performances are being held at the Philharmonic Hall. However, look out for French ensemble Doulce Memoire on Saturday 15th - they'll be laying on a show in the incredible underground chapel of Saint Kinga at the Wieliczka Salt Mines. Later on that evening, Misterium-Quem Quaeritis will be taking the festival into the open with a performance on Cracow's Main Market Square.
4th Krakow Month Of Photography
May 5th-May 31st
We thought for a moment that this diamond of a festival had given up the ghost, but here it is, ready to dazzle us again with some photo magic. Usually held in murky November, the Month of Photography is springing into action for a May marathon. Of course, Cracow has more artists than Hollywood has heartthrobs - and both have been known to indulge in a beer or three - so you can expect plenty of revelry accompanying each exhibition opening. Scores of shows will pop up in bars, cafes and little galleries across the city. And the charm of the festival is that you'll find both brilliance and ahem, not so good stuff side by side. This year's festival sees an increase in the number of foreign guests, with Finland's Sanna Kannisto, David Tartakover from Israel and longtime Cracow aficionado Michael Ackerman amongst those joining the throng. Guests of honour are four photographic wizards from Hungary, Gabor Kerekes, Imre Benko, Szilvia Toth and Judit Katalin Elek. Enjoy!
4th International Percussion Festival: Sources and Inspiration
May 5th - 7th
Percussive maestros from across the world descend on Cracow for some chiming and drumming antics, as organized by Cracow's distinguished Academy of Music. Special guests already confirmed include Dutch duo The Drumbassadors, Afro Break from the Czech Republic and Hungary's Tin Tin Quintet. From further afield we have award-winning marimba-player June Moonkyung Hahn from Korea, as well as Roy Haynes and Vic Firth. Many more artists are expected, not forgetting a host of home-grown stars from Polska. If you want to try something a bit different, head for this festival.
According to an ancient and venerable tradition, the students are handed the keys to the city for a brief yet decidedly bonkers romp one day each May. It's been going on for centuries, and the Cracovians are quite used to all these shenanigans - Juvenalia is good news for beer and fancy-dress sellers, not so good news for street sweepers. For a week or so after the big day, parties will erupt across Cracow. Most of these are open to outsiders, and some of Poland's biggest names in the world of pop and rock will be letting rip at major city venues. For confirmation of who's heading the bill this year, drop into the Cracow Cultural Office at ul. Sw. Jana 2.
18th International Festival of Contemporary Music
In a direct opposite trend to so many other European countries, Poland reached an all time high in classical music over the last 70 years. OK, so Chopin, their nineteenth century star, is not to be sniffed at, but in the 20th century Polska produced a veritable stream of great composers (Szymanowski, Lutoslawski et al) many of whom are still knocking out tunes today (Gorecki, Penderecki, Preisner). This festival draws back the curtain on today's crop of up and coming national composers, and performances will be held across Cracow. Is there anyone to pick up the mantle of the older generation? Let's hope so!
May 25th - 28th
Cracow is quite simply one of the most religious cities in Europe - it has been a pilgrimage destination since time immemorial. It's true that no world figure will be able to elicit the response that Pope John Paul II received in his native city (Karol Wojtyla was Archbishop here for many years) but it's safe to say that the visit of his successor will be a major event that will bring much of the city to a standstill. At present, Pope Benedict has marked out several places in the region as part of his itinerary. The pontiff should begin in Warsaw, before visiting the Holy Shrine of Czestochowa on 26th. He will then visit Cracow, where there will be a vast open-air mass on Blonia Common, the site where John Paul II gave two historic masses. Pope Benedict will also visit the modernist Sanctuary of Divine Mercy, the Stations of the Cross at nearby Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, the birthplace of John Paul at Wadowice, and the former concentration camp of Auschwitz, the latter being likely to spark intense reflection in his native Germany.
46th Cracow Film Festival
May 30th - June 4th
Poland's oldest film festival returns, and judging by last year's success, it's an increasingly fashionable fixture on the international scene. The film fest concentrates on short films, documentaries and animated features, and prizes will be awarded in both Polish and International categories. Young hopefuls will be competing for the cherished Silver Dragons, and there is a special Dragon of Dragons for an outstanding figure in International cinema. As usual, the main base of the event will be Kino Kijow ( al. Krasinskiego 34), a five minute walk west of the Planty gardens. The standard form is that there will be a press conference after each screening, so if you think you've discovered the next Kieslowski (who indeed kicked off his career at the festival) then stick around at the end and you can have a chin-wag with the director and some of the cast.
Gallery of 20th Century Polish Painting
National Museum, al. 3 Maja 1
The National Museum has just relaunched its trump card - the vast gallery of modern Polish painting. The entire venture has taken an a painful six years to complete. But the results are a great success. We've all heard about Klimt, Monet and Magritte, now it's time to meet Witkacy, Wyspianski and Wojtkiewicz. Not easy to pronounce we don't deny, but these masters can certainly hold their own with their more famous peers in the West. After the Cold War isolation, Poland's artists are ripe for discovery and this collection comprises of over 500 pieces from the most gifted hands. The journey begins c. 1880 with Mloda Polska, Poland's Art Nouveau-era explosion, ending with late twentieth century standouts. A must for art lovers.
** The National Museum has three more shows this Spring, including a retropective of feted Polish modern artist, Janina Kraupe (March 17th - May 7th), as well as fantastic little treat for Chagall lovers ( as pictured above - March 31st - May 27th) and an exhibition of ancient jewellery entitled 'Treasures from the Black Sea'. For more information scroll downwards....
Traces of Memory
The Galicia Museum, ul. Dajwor 18
If you're in Cracow on a Monday you'll find that a lot of museums tend to shut up shop. However, all is not lost if you're in search of something that's out of the ordinary. The Galicia Museum has some of the most customer friendly hours in town (9am - 8pm, 7 days a week), and it also happens to be one of the best. This fresh new Kazimierz enterprise is helping to resurrect the region's Jewish legacy, which it brings it to life through a host of lively concerts, seminars, exhibitions and more. This Spring you'll find two tremendous exhibitions running side by side. The first is 'Traces of Memory', a stunning photographic display that draws back the curtain on the lost world. The second is an affectionate series of caricatures of artists and cultural luminaries who were persecuted by the Nazis. The latter, 'Hitler's List', was created by British artist John Minnion, and it includes everyone from Marc Chagall to Cracow scion Roman Polanski.
Miro Svolik: Journey to the Interior
The Turlej Gallery, ul. Jana 2
Until April 18th
This extensive new gallery just north off the Main Square is one of the most exciting recent developments on Cracow's contemporary art scene. Drop by for a glimpse into the world of Miro Svolik, the outstanding Slovak artist and photographer who co-founded the Slovak New Wave. The Slovak sensation is exhibiting in Poland for the first time and Turlej has managed to get its mits on some seventy-two of his works. His dreamy, fantastical creations are full of quirky charm. Well worth checking out.
Holy War - Holy Peace: Wisla / Cracovia 1906 - 2006
Cracow History Museum, Main Market Square 35
Until May 7th
When Pope John Paul II (a deft goalie himself) passed away last April the fans of Cracow's two oldest clubs, Wisla and Cracovia, put aside their differences in an epic reconciliation. It was only brief, but that moment provides a memorable turn to this exhibition marking the centenary of Cracow's most famous football clubs - what a shame that the Holy Peace didn't last. Besides a corner devoted to last year's sensation, there are all kinds of trophies and other pieces of soccer paraphernalia from a hundred years of highs and lows. All in all, a must for soccer fans.
Beat Streuli: Cities 2001 - 2006
Bunkier Sztuki, Plac Szczepanski 3a
Until May 7th
Top Swiss artist Beat Steuli is taking over the Bunker of Art this Spring. He's made a name for himself with video and photo portraits from around the world, many of which - including a selection from a recent stay in Cracow - will be on display at the Bunker. If that doesn't rock your boat then the outdoor bar may have you hooked. This mellow spot is something of a favourite with cultured cats, who enjoy imbibing both coffee and beer around the clock.
Treasures from the Black Sea: Gold, Sculpture and Ceramics from the Archaeological Museum in Odessa
National Museum, al. 3 Maja 1
This gem of an exhibition comes under the banner of the Ukrainian Year In Poland. From the two magnificent pagan idols that guard the entrance to the stunning 2000 year old necklaces further inside, this show is an absolute feast. 'Treasures from the Black Sea is an extensive exhibition that has been both lucidly and imaginatively presented. Besides the many other relics, we'll hazard a guess that ladies will love the brooches and jewels here, if our goodly companions are anything to go by! One more reason to head over to the National Museum, which has a new spring in its step this year.
Faces Of America - Portraits 1770 -1940
International Cultural Centre, Main Market Square 25
Until May 7th 2006
There's so much hype about Cracow's older museums that you could easily miss the city's finest exhibition space - the superb International Culture Centre. It's not hard to find, being right on the Market Square, so all the more reason to drop into this one-off show. 'Faces of America' is the first substantial exhibition in Poland of old American painting. The exhibition presents outstanding portraits from the Chicago collection of the Terra Foundation, including both artists' self-portraits as well as portraits of statesman and other grandees. Artists featured include Wiliam Meritt Chase, Frederick Frieseke and Richard Emil Miller.
Rembrandt and his Competitors: 17th Century Dutch Prints
International Cultural Centre, Main Market Square 25
May 24th - August 27th
This Summer marks the 400th anniversary of the birth of Rembrandt. He's one of those super-hyped artists who really does deserve to be called sublime, and Cracow is not going to be left out in wishing him a happy birthday. The city of Prince Krak may not have been able to gets its cultured hands on any of the high-flying Dutchman's oils, but no matter, Rembrandt's genius is equally evident in his prints and engravings, of which the ICC has a substantial 120. These will be accompanied by a smattering of engravings by some of his contemporaries, including Jan Lievens, Adriaen van Ostade and Pieter van Laer.