Tadeusz Kantor Café Europe
The last exhibition in Tadeusz Kantor’s life took place in June 1990 in Rome, in a new art gallery called Spicchi del Est, which was established especially to host the event. Its owner, Stefania Piga, created it to show art from Eastern Europe, which was on the verge of a period of development and reinforcement of its position in the Western world following the collapse of communism. A year earlier, while staying in Poland, Stefania Piga had met many artists, including Tadeusz Kantor. The artist not only agreed to inaugurate the operation of the gallery with an exhibition of his works, but also accepted the offer to be its artistic director. Tadeusz Kantor’s Gallery-Studio, Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, 13 November 2023 – 25 February 2024
With the exhibition in mind, he wrote a text entitled Café Europe, proposing to also give this name to the gallery. It was a poetic declaration … a text accompanied with a graphic in the form of a spiral with the names of great people who created the culture of Europe, a text closing with words which, more than a prophecy, sound like a true and timely memento […] everybody is there …. the true Europe / Eternal! / Just try to propose any barriers in “Café Europe”…. The inauguration of the exhibition was a great success. For the circles from which Stefania Piga came, the presence of Italian politicians interested in culture, and of course representatives of Polish institutions, was unusually large. A meeting took place with the young … Vittorio Sgarbi, who improvised a lively dialogue with Kantor himself in front of each work, thus transforming this special meeting into a fantastic presentation of the exhibition to the entire audience present … The exhibition closed on the twentieth of July. On Christmas Day, Kantor was to hold a second exhibition at the gallery and publicly announce that he was taking over the artistic direction of the establishment. On the ninth of December, Stefania Piga received a phone call from Jarek Mikołajewski with the news of the artist’s death. It was a shock. A consequence of these events was Stefania’s decision to take charge of the gallery herself, as any other choice seemed to her to be some kind of ‘second’ choice….Café Europe, the gallery would not adopt this name until many years later, after the grief over Tadeusz Kantor’s would-be leadership of the gallery was no longer so acute.
A graphic with a spiral being a symbolic representation of Café Europe took centre stage in the Roman collection. It is only natural that it became the inspiration for the title of the current Krakow exhibitions and that it can be admired on display at the Academy Museum. Other works by Tadeusz Kantor that were on display at the Rome exhibition were also brought in. It is important to note that it is not a reconstruction of the old exhibition, which also included the artist’s works from the collections of Polish museums. The Krakow exhibition presents a unique collection of works that has been seen in several important exhibitions in Italy, among others in Sutri. For the first time it will be also shown in Poland.
In 2020 Vittorio Sgarbi presented the collection within the artistic event “Da Giotto a Pasolini” in Sutri, and a few years earlier the work the Napoleonic Soldier from Goya’s Painting Crossed my Path Again, created by the artist for the gallery opening in Rome, was exhibited as part of an event promoted by the Spanish Cultural Institute of Warsaw.The presentation at the Academy Museum is complete with an object from the Cricoteka’s collection, Children on Benches from the play Dead Class, also present at the Roman exhibition. Arranged by the artist’s daughter, Dorota Krakowska, it is surrounded by drawings that depict characters from individual Cricot 2 performances with the objects or stage machines assigned to them, figures with unusual attributes, or simply silhouettes of people from Kantor’s environment and the artist himself.
In the catalogue accompanying the Rome exhibition, Tadeusz Kantor wrote:
(..) And the exhibition itself.
Everything rather casual..
The boys and girls of my School Class have arrived.
The Dead Class.
… The drawings like casual notes taken in a cafe or during the night in the Wretched Little Room of the Imagination. …
It was in this room in Sienna Street, as part of the second, parallel exhibition, that two paintings were shown from the collection the Napoleonic Soldier from Goya’s Painting Crossed my Path Againand Emballage Dechiré, as well as three groups of drawings from the series Heads, Human Emballages and Beach Houses. The latter series can be linked to the second object presented in Rome, the Trumpet of the Final Judgement from Where Are the Snows of Yesteryear, which will be on show at the Tadeusz Kantor. Spectres exhibitionat the Cricoteka’s main facility from December 2023.
The exhibitions are more than a classical presentation of works, becoming an opportunity to evoke memories and to pay tribute and show gratitude to the enthusiasts and faithful collectors of Kantor’s work, i.e. Stefania and Dario Piga.