The Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw is one of Poland’s most vital public arts institutions, offering an esteemed collection of Polish and international art along with residency and educational programs. A new director for the Centre was recently appointed by the Polish ministry of culture, and many members of the Polish and international art communities have been baffled and disturbed by the candidate: Piotr Bernatowicz, a former journalist and gallery director, has no experience heading a large-scale institution, leading some to decry his appointment as politically motivated. He also has a history of using his professional position to promote far-right views. A petition has been organized to call on the Polish minister of culture, Piotr Gliński, to revoke the appointment. To read the open letter to Gliński and sign the petition, visit Change.org. You can read an excerpt from the open letter below, which details the questionable hiring procedure used to appoint Bernatowicz.
As citizens and members of the international artistic community as well as the audience of contemporary art we firmly object to the decision made by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland to appoint Piotr Bernatowicz to the position of the director of the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art without an open competition recruitment procedure. We reject both the manner in which the appointment was carried out and the candidate chosen by the Minister.
The Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art is a transdisciplinary institution of international importance and a showcase for Polish contemporary art. An appointment that bypasses the competition procedure despite the existence of the necessary legal framework sets an exceptionally alarming precedent. It seems even more disturbing in the context of earlier personnel decisions that had a strong negative impact on important cultural institutions, such as the National Museum in Warsaw, Helena Modrzejewska National Stary Theatre in Kraków, and Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. This blatant disregard for procedures suggests that the decision was politically motivated rather than based on objective criteria such as merit. Such stance impedes any kind of dialogue about the program and development of the institution in the coming years.
Leading a large-scale institution such as the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art requires not only specialized knowledge but also managerial expertise. One of the key skills in administration and supervision is a sense for diplomacy, as well as the ability to represent Poland in international contexts. Piotr Bernatowicz has no relevant experience. He has never worked closely with foreign curators nor planned an exhibition abroad. Nor is he able to demonstrate any qualifications in managing international projects, creating strategic partnerships with institutions abroad, and obtaining grants or other types of funding. Such experience should have been deemed essential in a candidate for a position this prestigious and of this importance…
Image via Change.org.