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Three Women – exhibition

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Date: 6–23 February 1978

Participants: Anna Bednarczuk, Izabella Gustowska, and Krystyna Piotrowska

Location: BWA Poznań “Arsenał”[1]

The first articles exploring the phenomenon of feminist art in Western Europe and the United States were published in Polish art magazines around 1980.[2] In those times the first minor exhibitions of feminist art appeared—exhibitions of the type “women choose women,” curated by artists who also took part in them. The first genuine feminist exhibition was “Three Women” with the participation of Poznań-based artists, in the city gallery of art. The title of the show was probably inspired by the title of Robert Altman’s movie of the same name. A catalog was also published with the biographical notes of the participants, reproductions of their most significant self-portraits shown (among others) in the gallery, and with the collage of their artworks and inspirations. During the opening, hostesses dressed in Playboy-bunny costumes served a cake in the form of a female breast, which gives the ironical frame to the art pieces that were very conscious of the category of masquerade and the cultural impact on sexed subjects, made with the usage of embroidery, lingerie, and other so-called female attributes. Self-portraits by Anna Bednarczuk made as reduced fabrics, Krystyna Piotrowska’s Better Face in Your Mirror?—a kind of drawing and graphic catalog of faces and their parts—and Izabella Gustowska’s photos and photomontages of female bodies and flowers were on display, among others.

After the show only one review was published in the local press and the exhibition passed without a bigger impact on Polish art. It only appeared recently in the catalog text of the “Three Women” (conscious reference) exhibition of Ewa Partum, Natalia LL, and Maria Pinińska-Bereś, curated by Ewa Toniak, that opened in 2011 in the Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw.


[1] Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych [Office of Art Exhibitions] was the name of the city galleries in Poland in the ’80s.

[2] S. Morawski, “Neofeminizm w sztuce,” Sztuka 4 (1977): and B. Baworowska, “Wystawa sztuki feministycznej w Holandii,” Sztuka 3 (1980). After her residency in New York in 1977, Natalia LL appeared in 1978 with a cycle of gallery lectures on feminist-art phenomena.


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Women’s Art 1980 – exhibition

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Date: November 1980

Participants: Izabella Gustowska, Anna Kutera, Natalia LL, Ewa Partum, Krystyna Piotrowska, Maria Pinińska-Bereś, and Teresa Tyszkiewicz

Organizers: Izabella Gustowska and Krystyna Piotrowska

Location: ON Gallery, Poznań

The first national exhibition of the practices of Polish women artists interested in negotiations of feminine subjectivity was organized by two artists who run the gallery associated with the Fine Arts Academy. Izabella Gustowska, when asked about the concept of the show, said she had been familiar with most of the artists from previous exhibitions at ON except for Ewa Partum, whom they invited due to her clear-cut artistic position, and Maria Pinińska-Bereś, whom, in turn, they wanted to honor as a pioneer of a certain kind of sensitivity. This was why the “L”-shaped gallery’s smaller room was devoted entirely to Pinińska-Bereś. The pink-quilted fluid rug spilling out of her Well of Pink ran across the floor of the larger room above, where the works of the younger artists were on display together with photographic works, films, and works on paper. The invited artists presented performances or live lectures (except for Krystyna Piotrowska, Teresa Tysziewicz probably made a comment to her movies) during the two-day symposium opened by speeches of the theorists Alicja Kępińska and Jerzy Ludwiński. What the different realizations had in common was, in my view, their focus on the issue of space and the representations of the subjectively understood feminine body.

“Although the exhibition had not been thought as a feminist demonstration, the title provoked questions about distinguishing the characteristic of art created by women artists—their peculiar features and goals. The organizers wanted to provoke such a discussion and posed questions that had never been asked in Poland before. […] I do not say that nothing like women’s art does exist, because art has no sex (is sexless),” wrote Grzegorz Dziamski. “But look at what women artists do and wonder if in the pieces presented by them there is something you will not find anywhere else—another sensibility, other imaginations, a different approach to the world.”[1]

Beside the Polish Film Chronicle that reported on Partum’s performance, the exhibition was not reviewed in the media and stayed forgotten for a long time, mentioned only in Dziamski’s articles on women’s art and in the catalogs of Presence III and ON Gallery. The thematic was continued by Gustowska in the “Presence” exhibition cycle in the 1980s and 1990s.

Detailed description of the exhibition

Document: Izabella Gustowska: WHY? (1998)


[1] Grzegorz Dziamski, “Drobne narracje,” in Drobne narracje. XV lat galerii ON (Poznań, 1994), 6–7.


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