Space shared by Krakow’s cultural events organisers, art exhibitions, a bookshop with albums byKrakow’s artists, literary meetings of the UNESCO City of Literature, a new edition of the “Szymborska’s Drawer” exhibition, concerts, film screenings, an information point and a service centre for guests of Krakow’s most important festivals. This is how the Potocki Palace will operate – a new address dedicated to culture with a view of the most beautiful market square in Europe. At Rynek Główny 20, a space combining heritage and creativity is being created, available to all and open to the ideas of the Cracovians.
Every place around Krakow’s Main Market Square tells the story of almost a thousand year history of the city, and the Zbaraski Palace, more often referred to as the Potocki Palace, accumulates the true genius loci of Krakow. In the sixteenth century it belonged to the Firlej family. In the following centuries, it was inherited by other rich families, underwent reconstructions, to be renovated and reconstructed after World War II. The Baroque décor, the classicist façade decorated with allegorical figures and the remarkable arcaded courtyard, modelled on the Wawel Castle, are the attributes of one of the most representative buildings in the city.
For the last 25 years the Potocki Palace has been the seat of an institution promoting German language and culture. The Goethe Institut operating here moved to Podgórska Street in October. The owners of the Palace, in order to preserve the cultural character and atmosphere of the place and continue the traditions of the past, turned to the city authorities with a proposal to design its artistic functions. In co-operation with the city’s cultural institutions and the Culture and National Heritage Department of the Municipality of Krakow, the idea was developed to integrate in this place the cultural activities of several municipal entities and some non-governmental organisations. The Potocki Palace is to become a real cluster for the new way of thinking about Krakow’s culture, a place of cooperation and “cooperation instead of competition” – the main motto of the Cultural Development Programme until 2030. It is also supposed to continue the beautiful traditions of daily cultural diplomacy of the city.
‘This is a difficult time for the city and many institutions. However, bearing in mind that the centre of Krakow is our common space and responsible protection of places of particular importance to Krakow’s cultural heritage is one of our priorities, I decided to create a new, hospitable haven for culture and a meeting place for the inhabitants and visitors of Krakow looking for the key to the richness and diversity of our city’s culture’, says Jacek Majchrowski, Mayor of Krakow.
The Potocki Palace will be vibrant with life, music, literature, events from the world of the intermedia, visual arts and meetings bringing together various environments. It will become a place of meetings with the audience and guests of important festivals and a place common for the literary community. The achievements of the City of Krakow scholarship holders and artists associated with the city will be presented here. The Palace will become a showcase of Krakow – a city of European culture, and at the same time a place of everyday work for many communities. The space in the side enfilade from Bracka Street will be occupied by the popular “Szymborska’s Drawer” Exhibition – to be newly arranged and expanded. The palace will resound with jazz, classical music, but also with the ambitious alternative music. The underground galleries will host exhibitions and publishing activities, and the ground floor will house a bookstore. The courtyard and the spacious floor will become a place of cooperation of various sectors.
The new home for culture will be co-hosted by Krakow’s institutions, organisers of festivals and educational programmes: The Bunkier Sztuki Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow MOCAK, the KBF – operator of the Krakow UNESCO City of Literature programme and the Wisława Szymborska Foundation. The Palace will be a shared place – accessible to all organisations that create diverse cultural life in our city. Invitations to co-create the atmosphere of this place have already been received by the Krakow Film Festival, UNSOUND Festival, Summer Jazz Festival Krakow and Capella Cracoviensis.
Cellars: exhibition space
During the modernisation of the building of the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art, which has its permanent seat on the corner of Planty and Plac Szczepański, exhibition, educational and publishing activities of the institution will be moved to the Zbaraski Palace.
Thanks to the relocation, the gallery will be able to maintain its uninterrupted functioning in close proximity to its current seat and continue to make its offer available to the residents in the heart of the historical centre of Krakow. The launch of the Gallery’s activity in the Potocki Palace will also provide the residents with an opportunity to learn about historical interiors.
‘Historic cellars, arcades and courtyards will be filled with contemporary art. The gallery will present exhibitions of works from the Bunkier Sztuki Collection as well as individual and collective exhibitions commenting on not only artistic, but also social and political reality that surroundi us. The first exhibition to be held in the cellars of the Zbaraski Palace will be an individual exhibition of Bartek Materka’s works’, announces Maria Anna Potocka, director of Bunkier Sztuki.
Ground floor: Bunkier Bookstore MOCAK
The Palace will also house the modern bookstore Bunkier Bookstore MOCAK, a continuation of the joint project of Bunkier Sztuki and MOCAK, commenced in 2019.
’Last year, MOCAK Bookstore won the plebiscite for Krakow’s favourite bookshop, and we hope that this one will also become close to the Cracovians. The bookstore will offer an extensive range of albums devoted to art, collector’s publications, literature and art objects. MOCAK and Bunker publications will also be available here. It is important that the centre should offer unique souvenirs from the city of culture and art’, emphasises Maria Anna Potocka.
Literature, festival meetings, visitor service centres and NGO initiatives
The spaces of the former Goethe Institut Library will host literary programmes under the patronage of the Krakow UNESCO City of Literature (KMLU), which is coordinated by the KBF team, including the Literary Department. Before the establishment of the Planet LEM Literature and Language Centre in Zabłocie, the Potocki Palace will be home to various literary initiatives – those organised throughout the year and those implemented as part of the festival. For the next three years, event formats, educational programmes for children and seniors, creative writing courses, popular science lectures, reading lessons and other initiatives that will become the Planet LEM programme in the future will be tested here.
The cultural cluster in the Potocki Palace will also house a cultural information centre targeted at those visitors who want to discover our city following an unobvious trail of cultural experiences.
‘Numerous festivals organised in Krakow, as well as projects such as the Krakow Nights, will find space for festival meetings at Rynek Główny 20. Guest service centres, information points and receptions will be located here. Apart from city festivals, there will also be events organised with various partners, including film, literary, theatre, jazz, world music, design, fashion, visual arts, photography, electronic, early and classical music festivals”, announces Izabela Błaszczyk, director of KBF.
The Potocki Palace will be a new home for the “Szymborska’s Drawer” exhibition, initiated by the Nobel Prize winner Foundation, which will move here from the Szołayski Tenement House. The exhibition will be expanded to include the literary context of the period in which the Nobel Prize winner lived and worked, as well as references to her literary friends.
‘Admittedly, “Nothing can ever happen twice.”, but we are opening for the second time the exhibition devoted to Wisława Szymborska entitled “Szymborska’s Drawer”, which has been hosted by the Szolayski Tenement House – a branch of the National Museum in Krakow since February 2013 and will be closed in December this year. It has been redesigned, expanded and modernised and will be housed in the Zbaraski Palace in the Main Market Square. The exhibition will be a kind of stage design, a three-dimensional collage in which objects belonging to the poet will appear next to quotations from her work, photographs of people, objects and places. They will lead viewers from Poland and abroad into her private world of poetic imagination and intellectual inspirations. The exhibition is to be an open place, a “cultural salon” – a meeting place for people of culture and art’, announces Michał Rusinek, President of the Wisława Szymborska Foundation.
Katarzyna Olesiak, Director of the Culture and National Heritage Department of the Municipality of Krakow announces the open character of this space, where non-governmental organisations will be able to hold their events:
‘The Palace will host, among other things, writing courses, educational activities, meetings with authors, book premieres, and there will also be a media library. It is also important to emphasise the intention to cooperate closely with the neighbours and use the synergy effect. Located close to many institutions, museums and places of cultural entertainment, the Palace will be open to neighbours and all those who want to co-create the cultural fabric of the city’, announces Olesiak.
The gateway to culture
The concept of the place is in line with the upcoming sustainable tourism strategy, as well as the Culture Development Programme 2030 recommending the creation of nodes for culture and creative industries – common spaces, clusters.
‘Among the important recommendations related to the development of the field of culture, priority is assigned to creating common spaces, interdisciplinary places, whose vision is based on cooperation, sharing costs and testing new, hybrid organisational models. Such will be the node for culture at Rynek Główny 20. I believe that at the same time important social functions will be restored in this part of Krakow’s Market Square, especially since in recent years many important functions of the centre have been replaced by activities focused on tourist-related services. Various controversial tourist ‘attractions’ that strongly influence the image of Krakow should be absent from this precious space. Rynek Główny 20 is to be not so much a salon, but a hub – a place where circles, inhabitants and guests mingle. It is here that you will be able to find out what the current cultural offer of the city is, what is worth visiting, what exhibitions to see and what festival to take part in, and at the same time learn about the extremely interesting history of the Palace or see the mementos connected with the literary life of Krakow’, sums up Robert Piaskowski, Mayor of Krakow’s Plenipotentiary for Culture.
The vision of the cultural cluster in the Zbaraski Palace was inspired by similar places operating in various cities around the world, such as the Adelaide Festival Centre, the Federation Square cluster in Melbourne, the Festival Centre in Edinburgh and the Cultural Information Centre in the Quartier de Spectacles in Montreal. Taking care of a high-class heritage site and filling it with cultural content and social energy is an important asset, making Krakow’s approach so unique.
‘For us, this is an important manifestation of values. The cultural heritage of our city is a priceless yet non-renewable resource. It cannot be given back to the ‘invisible hand of the market’. It is an area that requires our protection. I believe that just as the Florian Gate (Brama Floriańska) is a symbolic entrance to the Old Town, the Zbaraski Palace will be a gateway to the most important stories about Krakow’s culture. That is why we want to combine the everyday life of the Palace with the flagship cultural projects: the Krakow UNESCO City of Literature programme, the strategy of organising the festival calendar into cultural seasons and, finally, the recently launched PLAY KRAKÓW audiovisual platform’, Piaskowski announces.
The place will derive income from the permanent exhibition and temporary exhibitions; occupying the new premises will allow for vacating other facilities, rented on the commercial market. The rent will be shared between the two municipal institutions. The Palace’s interiors will be open to institutions and non-governmental organisations with which the city cooperates as part of long-term cooperation and competitions to enrich cultural activities. The Zbaraski Palace will be a cultural centre in the heart of the city and a place which will add a new social function to the largest medieval market square in Europe. The cultural cluster at Rynek Główny 20 will be launched at the beginning of next year.