Art of the Ages
Visitors to the sprawling commercial centre of Kraków might easily forget that this remarkably lovely city can trace its earliest settlements as far back as the Stone Age. Situated around the winding Vistula River, the architecture is its own sort of open-air aesthetic marvel. Buildings feature everything from centuries-old Gothic spires to 20th-century brutalist styles.
It’s no wonder that the inspiring, captivating “Florence of Poland” has been a magnet to artists throughout the ages. This is clearly reflected in the city’s burgeoning art scene. Here, one can expect to encounter collections from great classical painters in the metropolis’ finer institutions.
On the other end of the spectrum, a plethora of galleries nurtures new generations of visionaries. Galleries provide both creators and audiences an opportunity to experience new works. Indeed, the streets themselves have become a canvas for contemporary crafters of illustrative expression. Fascinating creations evoke awe and wonder wherever one looks. For guests interested in exploring the visual arts, Kraków is a true mecca.
Kraków is stocked with an impressive collection of world-class art museums. The National Museum of Kraków (known locally as Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie) is technically a history museum. But make no mistake – it houses the most important collection of 19th-century Polish art with a focus on the famous “Young Poland Movement,” which spanned from 1890-1918. Also featured are quintessential examples of national decorative arts, militaria, and a healthy helping of European Masters such as Rembrandt.
Those seeking more au courant and abstract modes of expression will find them in the MOCAK – the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków. The building itself is of an unforgettable design. The works housed inside challenge traditional notions of art as they dazzle the senses with their left-of-centre interpretations.
A warmer sort of art experience can be had at the Stained Glass Museum. In this living workshop for the craft, visitors can see how the colourful translucent installations are made. Additionally, patrons are provided with a map guide to some of the finest examples of the tradition to be found around the city.
For Gallery Hoppers
Along with the big-name museum destinations in Kraków, a thriving art gallery scene gives tourists the chance to view the evolution of Poland’s painting and sculpture in real time. Stroll through the Stare Miasto district – the historic area that once served as the country’s capital –to discover the lion’s share of the city’s showrooms for contemporary illustration and design. Salons here display the latest works from some of the country’s hottest up-and-coming creators. Even street art has an elevated status; tours of some of the more remarkable examples are available.
Just outside the ancient district is the Fresz Gallery, one of the city’s prime showcases for the freshest local art (fresz means fresh). With a focus on young and individualistic artists, the aim here is to promote promising works and support the creative development of the people who make them. And in some ways, that makes it the perfect microcosm of Kraków’s whole artistic ethos: always building the new on the foundations of the old. Truly, this city values its aesthetic heritage, continuously breathing life into an always-growing cultural opus of the imagination.