SERENISSIMA EAST is an international exhibition of contemporary art that also touches upon history. Serenissima, i.e. the Most Serene, was the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but also the Republic of Venice. This is a symbolic bridge in the field of semantics, but also related to the fact that we show contemporary art from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – first in Poland, and also planning to show it in Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn and in Venice during the 2024 Art Biennale.
The strength of this project is primarily in the high quality of the presented art, but also a symbolic reminder – a short history lesson for an international audience. We used to be one powerful state, commonwealth, dismantled in the 18th century by its neighbours, absent from the maps throughout the 19th century, resurrected as a series of nation states after 1918, separated again after Yalta, absorbed by the USSR, regained independence for the second time after the Solidarity revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and in 2004 reunited in the European Union family.
The historical aspect is important in a symbolic sense, but rather secondary in terms of the substantive selection of artists and works from these and not other countries. Due to their roots, does Polish culture and art from the Baltic countries have any common features that would distinguish it from the art of other European regions? Probably not, and trying to prove such a thesis would be risky and probably pointless. Especially nowadays, in the era of globalisation and unlimited possibilities of communication and exchange of ideas. To repeat – it is more important to demonstrate the values of this art: universal, objective, and not specific, regional ones.
SERENISSIMA brings together the achievements of artists recognised in their countries and internationally, in many cases the most famous painters and animators, but for the audience of, for example, the Venice Biennale, their names, titles and national achievements are of little importance. In the mass of the best artists and works from all over the world that will, as usual, come to Venice, only quality and impact will count, not local distinctions. And this provides the greatest chance for success, because in Venice what counts above all is art and it does not matter whether the artist creates in New York, Cairo or Tallinn.
The 2,000 m2 of CoCA space, including the monumental Column Hall, hosts a show of paintings, sculptures, graphics, video art and animated films, supported by an extensive English-language catalog in 4 volumes.
Having been in the making since 2018, the project was inaugurated on October 20, 2023 at CoCA in Toruń, which is the main organiser of the project. A special edition of the exhibition is due during the Venice Art Biennale in April 2024. Later, in 2024 and 2025, the project will be shown in Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn. And later, a SERENISSIMA WEST project is in the works, slated for 2025.
The presented painters include: Andrzej Wróblewski, an icon of Polish contemporary art, born in Vilnius, Jonas Gasiunas (LT), professor and long-time dean of painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vilnius, one of the most original European painters, Kaido Ole (EST), professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tallinn, Kristaps Zarins (LV) and Andris Vitolins (LV), professors, and respectively the rector and the vice-rector of the Latvian Academy of Art in Riga, Eugeniusz Minciel (PL), concrete abstractionist, classics Jan Dobkowski (PL) and Tomasz Ciecierski (PL), Egle Ridigaite (LT), creating monumental paintings on canvases directly attached to the gallery wall, and the classic New York colorist Kestutis Zapkus (LT).
Also included is a collection of works by masters of the Polish poster school: Jan Lenica (PL) and Wojciech Fangor (PL), as well as graphics by Guntars Sietins (LV) and Janis Murovskis (LV), professors at the Latvian Academy of Art in Riga.
The sculptors and creators of the installations are the New York artist Zilvinas Kempinas (LT), Nomeda and Gedyminas Urbonas (LT), who also creates in the USA, and Gleb Pantelejevs (LV) from Riga.
The creators of video art are classics well known internationally: Jonas Mekas (LT), a collaborator of Andy Warhol, one of the most important creators of the New York film avant-garde, and Józef Robakowski (PL), a photographer, filmmaker, theoretician, creator of Zero 61 and Film Form Workshop in Łódź.
Also presented is the work of outstanding photographers: Andrzej Jerzy Lech (PL), Krzysztof Wodiczko (PL), both from New York, and the TTL group – three masters of Lithuanian photography: Gintautas Trimakas, Remigijus Treygys and Alvydas Lukys.
Animation is one of the leading artistic disciplines in Poland, winning at festivals and all competitions. The exhibition features drawings and paintings on plaster boards in the form of installations, as well as classic films by Piotr Dumała (PL), including "Kafka", "Crime and Punishment" and the Oscar-nominated "Hippos".
As many as nine participants took part in previous editions of the Venice Biennale of Art, both in the national pavilions and in accompanying exhibitions.
The exhibition will be accompanied by an educational program and a scientific and critical session.
The curator of the project is Krzysztof Stanisławski.
The national curators and coordinators are Arvydas Zalpys (LT) and Inese Rozentala (LV).