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Sainsbury Centre Opens An Impossible Journey: The Art and Theatre of Tadeusz Kantor
Woman in Bath, from Water Hen (1967) Photo: Jacek Szmuc.

LONDON.- An Impossible Journey, the first major UK exhibition of Polish artist Tadeusz Kantor’s work for over 30 years, opened at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich, on Tuesday 2 June and runs until Sunday 30 August. The Sainsbury Centre worked with Cricoteka, Kraków, and the Norfolk and Norwich Festival to develop the exhibition. An Impossible Journey runs concurrently with Take a Look at Me Now: Contemporary Art from Poland. The exhibitions have been developed by the Sainsbury Centre and are part of two UK cultural celebrations this summer; POLSKA! YEAR and Contemporary Art Norwich 09 (CAN09).

An Impossible Journey presents the exceptional breadth of Tadeusz Kantor’s work, recreating the most spectacular shows of Kantor’s theatre Cricot 2: The Dead Class (1975) and Wielopole, Wielopole (1980).

“Tadeusz Kantor is a towering figure of 20th century art and theatre in Poland and we have embraced this opportunity to look more closely at the impact of his work in the UK. This exhibition helps us to look forward as well as back - examining the value of Kantor's work for the present and the lessons we might learn from it in the future” - Natalia Zarzecka, Director, Cricoteka, Kraków.

Tadeusz Kantor was one of the most extraordinary and versatile artists of the 20th century. Born in Galicia at the start of the First World War, he worked in Kraków, where he died shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Painter, stage-designer and accomplished draftsman, as well as performer and poet, Kantor made his name as a man of the avant-garde theatre.

Combining virtually all art forms, he mesmerised audiences all over the world, including Edinburgh and London, with his dark performances, of a rare emotional intensity, which mixed the traumatic with the absurd, the personal with the historical, the living with the dead and actors with mannequins.

An Impossible Journey will feature a range of theatrical objects, mannequins and drawings related to these performances, alongside archival films of these performances, as well as stage designs and paintings. A documentary section of the exhibition with photographs and films will outline Kantor’s artistic development in an historical context.

The exhibition also includes an archival display which traces Kantor's work with Cricot 2, in Edinburgh and London, Riverside Studios and the Whitechapel Art Gallery. The materials help to reveal the impact Kantor had on cultural life in the UK during the 1970s and 1980s. The display has been developed by Jo Melvin using material loaned by David Gothard, Jasia Reichardt, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Ken McMullen, Rebecca O’Brien, Ian Knox, Erica Bolton, Richard Demarco and private collectors.

“We are delighted to be mounting the first major exhibition of Kantor’s work in the UK for over 30 years. We have also enjoyed the opportunity to work closely with colleagues at Cricoteka in Kraków, at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival and in the University of East Anglia drama department” - Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius, Sainsbury Centre project curator.

An Impossible Journey: The Art and Theatre of Tadeusz Kantor runs alongside an exhibition of contemporary art from Poland, Take a Look at Me Now. Seen together the displays reveal the vitality of the arts of Poland which, as exemplified by the case of Kantor, thrived despite their confinement behind the Iron Curtain in the post-WWII period, only to expand with astonishing vigour after 1989, drawing widely from the experience of the past.

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts | Tadeusz Kantor | Cricoteka | Kraków | Norfolk and Norwich Festival |

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