The longtime chief of a Polish art museum has been unceremoniously abolished by the country’s right-wing government

The longtime leader of Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, Poland has been unceremoniously ousted from office, marking the latest in a string of recent high-profile museum quarters imposed by the country’s right-wing government.

Jarosław Suchan, who has headed the museum since 2006, developed a reputation for promoting cutting edge art and forging institutional relationships with major museums abroad, effectively putting the small Polish venue on the international art map.

Still, the state Ministry of Culture and Heritage refused to renew his contract last December, offering him the title of interim director instead. For many, his resignation was only a matter of time.

“I thought I would be informed in advance, and in the meantime it happened overnight,” Suchan told the news site Wyborcza† “I have been living in uncertainty since the middle of last year. I am tired of it.”

Suchan will be replaced by Andrzej Biernacki, a painter and purveyor of a private gallery in a small town about an hour outside of Łódź. Biernacki will take up the position with no previous institutional leadership experience.

“I’m not going to get rid of the conceptual art purchased for the collection and on display,” Biernacki says. “But I plan to [work on] offer, introduce other stories. No one has said that you should only engage in eco-friendly, gender, or queer art promoted by Western cultural institutions.”

Biernacki was hand-selected for the position this week by Jarosław Sellin, Poland’s Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage.

Operating under the populist Law and Justice party, the ministry has fired several museum heads in recent years and replaced them with figures who align with the group’s stance. anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant ideals. Critics see the movements as part of a bigger trend of the Law and Justice party reforms.

In 2019, Małgorzata Ludwisiak was fired as director of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, and in 2021, Hanna Wróblewska you fired as interim director of the Zachęta National Gallery of Art, also in Warsaw. Wróblewska was replaced by a painter and drummer.

During his 16-year tenure at the Muzeum Sztuki, Suchan formed partnerships with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid and the Center Pompidou in Paris. He oversaw renovations of the museum’s M1 and M3 sites — home to the institution’s modern art and old masters collection, respectively — as well as the establishment of a second museum branch in Łódź’s Manufaktura neighborhood.

“Replacing a director makes sense when the institution is in bad shape, but Muzeum Sztuki has had a fairly successful run, marked by highly regarded exhibitions and strong international collaborations,” Suchan told the art newspaper last year, after his contract was not renewed.

“Of course, [the ministry of culture and the regional government] have the legal right to replace me [but] I don’t think it’s motivated by concern for the welfare of the institution.”

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