Interview

In Conversation with Helena Czernecka Board Member of the Friends of the Museum of Moden Art in Warsaw

Helena Czernecka is a Board Member of the Friends of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. Having graduated with a MA in History of Art from the Sorbonne University, Paris in 2016, she is currently studying Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths, University of London. In 2013–2019 Helena worked for art collections and galleries in London, Paris and Miami, including Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Almine Rech Gallery and the Margulies Collection. In 2019 she cooperated with Zachęta National Gallery of Art on the Polish Pavilion for the 58th Venice Biennale. She is a member of the Committee of the Starak Family Foundation’s “Wena” grant programme. She is also the founder of the Friends’ Art Prize presented during the gallery-share initiative FOAF Warsaw. In 2020, she was on the jury of the ING Polish Art Foundation art prize, as well as on the committee of the “160 scholarships for 160 years of the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts” grant programme by Zachęta National Gallery of Art

SK: Tell us more about the Friends of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw?

HCz: Friends of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw was created shortly after the museum’s first building opened in 2008.

Anyone can join and the proceeds from membership fees are entirely devoted to the society’s goal of supporting the statutory activities of the museum; in particular, on building its collection and on supporting education activities.

We work towards creating a group of art lovers, philanthropists, collectors and professionals around the museum and facilitating an exchange of experience and knowledge between our members and the wider art community.

We organise a variety of activities for our members: artists’ studio visits, guided exhibitions tours, private collections visits and trips abroad (Venice Biennale, Manifesta, documenta, Art Basel, Frieze, Fiac and many more).

 

SK: Could you describe your position, duties and responsibilities as a Member of the Board?

HCz: There are five of us (Aleksandra Auleytner, Michał Borowik, Katia Szczeka and Anna Tryc-Bromley) and we divide our responsibilities according to our experience. Because I have lived and worked in Paris, Miami and London, I am the contact point between the Friends of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and our friends abroad. Last year, I organised trips to London, Paris and Turin, where among others we had breakfast and private tour of her exhibition with artist Goshka Macuga and Agata Ingarden gave as a tour of Palais de Tokyo. We also visited private collections and enjoyed guided visits in museums and galleries. Likewise, we hosted international guests in Warsaw during the Warsaw Gallery Weekend. Exchange is an essential part of our activity.

I am also involved with communications. During lockdown we have launched a series of interviews called “Przyjaciele pytają” (every Monday and Friday on Instastory). By introducing the silhouettes of members of our society, the museum’s staff, artists, gallerists and many others, we hoped to create a sense of community within these troubling and lonely circumstances. “Przyjaciele pytają” became a communal safe space where people can share their experiences and thoughts as well as bits of humour and recommendations.

The Friends of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw at the curator's guide, the exhibition “Never Again. Art against War and Fascism in the 20th and 21st centuries”, the Museum on the Vistula, 2019

The Friends of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw at the curator’s guide, the exhibition “Never Again. Art against War and Fascism in the 20th and 21st centuries”, the Museum on the Vistula, 2019, private photo courtesy of Helena Czernecka

SK: What pushed you to become involved with the Friends of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw? 

HCz: After working in a commercial environment for six years I wanted to change the focus of my career to non-profit institutions and to explore the social role of art museums today. This is especially pertinent to Poland, where art can prove a powerful means of fighting the on-going discrimination of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities. I highly respect the ethos of the Warsaw MoMA and its innovative approach to the social and political significance of art today. The director, Joanna Mytkowska, and the curatorial team set the highest standards, creating a progressive and inclusive environment with a profound understanding of the complexities of the contemporary world.

 

SK: You studied History of Art at the Sorbonne University in Paris. How has your education prepared you for your career?

HCz: You have to know the past to understand the present. I find knowledge of the history of art essential in my work. Personally, it also gives me a lot of pleasure to be able to trace the influences and references of a contemporary work of art.

 

SK: Why do you think it is worthwhile to become a member of the Friends of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw?

HCz: It is important to support the organisations and institutions whose mission we believe in, to encourage participation and active engagement. By becoming a member of the Friends of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (MoMA), you help to build the museum and to fund its collection and activities. It is also a great opportunity to discover contemporary art and meet interesting people; not only fellow members of the Friends of the museum but also artists, curators, gallerists, collectors and many others. As I mentioned, we organise a range of events spanning form lectures (such as our annual collectors’ panel) up to international trips, artists’ studio visits, viewing of private collections and guided exhibitions tours in the museum as well as in leading galleries and institutions in Poland and abroad. We build a community based on the exchange of knowledge and passion. And, as the Museum of Modern Art is currently constructing a new building in the very centre of Warsaw, it is an extremely important and exciting moment to join!

"Paint, also known as Blood", the opening of the exhibition, private photo courtesy of Helena Czernecka

“Paint, also known as Blood”, the opening of the exhibition, private photo courtesy of Helena Czernecka

SK: Who can become a member?

HCz: As Friends of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw we aim at the highest standards of inclusivity. We offer different kinds of memberships tailored to various needs and possibilities. We recently introduced a special membership for students and seniors. Reconciling our members’ different needs and perspectives is sometimes a challenge, one that I find stimulating, however. I learn a lot from trying to understand these various approaches.

 

SK: What do you consider to be the biggest achievement of the Friends of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw? 

HCz: In 2019 we celebrated our 10th anniversary. During all these years the number of our members is constantly growing and our programme spans more and more events. Yet the best is still to come. We are currently getting ready for welcoming the museum’s new building located in the heart of Warsaw on Plac Defilad next to the Palace of Culture and Science. Designed by the architecture studio Thomas Phifer and Partners, the new museum is scheduled to open in December 2022 with a total area of ca. 20,000 sq m (ca. 213,000 sq ft), housing not only exhibition spaces but also educational areas for lectures, conservation and other restoration workshops, a cinema, an auditorium, a café, and a museum shop. Discovering the long-awaited new building of the museum together with all our members who supported us for better and worse through all these years will be definitely a very touching and exciting moment, one that I am very much looking forward to.

edited by Franciszek Bryk

Meeting with Goshka Macuga, private photo courtesy of Helena Czernecka

Meeting with Goshka Macuga, the Kate MacGarry Gallery, private photo courtesy of Helena Czernecka

Friends of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw is the partner of Allegro Prize – International Competition for Visual Artists co-organised by Allegro and Contemporary Lynx Magazine.

Miriam Cahn's work, private photo courtesy of Helena Czernecka

Miriam Cahn’s work, private photo courtesy of Helena Czernecka

Alex da Corte's work, private photo courtesy of Helena Czernecka

Alex da Corte’s work, private photo courtesy of Helena Czernecka

 

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About The Author

Sylwia
Krasoń

Founder of Contemporary Lynx (2013). Editor-in-chief of the Contemporary Lynx in print and online. The art historian with a Master of Arts degree in Arts Policy & Management (the University of London, Birkbeck College) and Master of Arts in History of Art (Jagiellonian University in Cracow).

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