Zachęta—National Gallery of Art, Warsaw: May 13 to Aug 21, 2016
Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn: Aug 24, 2017 to Jan 28, 2018

Display of ephemera from the collection of the Museum of American Art, Berlin. Prepared in collaboration with Porter McCray. 

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The exhibition 15 Polish Painters that took place at The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1961 was without precedent in the cultural history of the Cold War. The show of art from behind the Iron Curtain, featuring artists such as Tadeusz Kantor, Wojciech Fangor and Teresa Pągowska, was accompanied by a catalogue and subsequently sent to tour the United States and Canada. The exhibition had been inspired by another trip: Porter McCray’s visit to Warsaw in 1959, during the cultural “thaw”. A long-time director of MoMA International Program, McCray was the first Western museum professional to travel to Poland after World War II.

This documentary exhibit of materials from the collection of the Museum of American Art, Berlin, titled simply “15 Polish Painters, 1961” served as a frame, and a stage, for a lecture by Porter McCray of MoAA that completed the presentation.

In his lecture “About Exhibitions That Travelled” McCray looked back at that 1959 trip. He explained how MoMA’s touring exhibitions changed Europe’s image of modern art in the Cold War era. He also shared personal memories and photographs of his mid-century travels to Paris, Moscow, Belgrade, and Warsaw, with emphasis on the 1959 visit to the Polish capital.

The lecture took place on May 14 at Zachęta, Warsaw and its video documentation was subsequently incorporated into the display.

Photos by Bartek Górka

Porter McCray was the director of the The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) International Program during the 1950s, when – during the early years of the Cold War – several important exhibitions of modern American art travelled through major European cities. Those were the exhibitions that helped established in post-war Europe a common cultural identity based on internationalism, modernism and individualism. In recent years, Porter McCray has become responsible for the traveling exhibitions of the Museum of American Art in Berlin. He helped preparing the MoAA exhibitions: Savremena umetnost u SAD shown in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade (2006) and Istanbul Biennial (2009) that was about the MoMA exhibition of American art that came to Belgrade in 1956, and Face to Face at the opening of the Garage Museum in Moscow (2015) that dealt with the famous American National Exhibition organized in the Sokolniki Park (Moscow, 1959). He also talked about the history of MoMA International Program in various lectures delivered in New York, Zagreb, Vienna, Beirut and Amsterdam.

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