Le droit des artistes de s’exprimer librement est menacé partout dans le mande. L’art a un pouvoir extraordinaire d’exprimer la résistance et la rébellion, la protestation et l’espoir. Il apport une contribution, essentielle à toutes les démocraties prospères.

The artists’ right to freedom of expression is threatened everywhere in the world. Art has an extraordinary power of expressing resistance and rebellion, protest and hope. It brings a significant contribution to every flourishing democracy.

UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Artistic Freedom and Creativity

For over ten years (from 1945 to 1955) both subject matters and artistic techniques were imposed on artists by authorities. The omnipresent Workers’ Party required art to convey a certain ideological message, while artists were supposed to participate in socio-political changes through their creations. For various reasons many of them gave in and played their role in the creation of Mr. Cogito’s new consciousness. Others found refuge in the outdated Kapism – for many, a style reminiscing of paradise lost.

It was during this extremely difficult time that four painters (Janina “Janka” Jasińska, Marek Oberländer, Jacek Sienicki, Jan Dziędziora) decided to strive for their dreams of regaining creative freedom and liberating themselves from ideological frames of thought. Their courage and uncompromising attitude would later inspire the creation of an exhibition showcasing the aspirations of the young generation wanting to live and create without political supervision. These four artists, followed by many others who joined the manifestation, aimed at creating a breakthrough in the way the role of art in the new reality was perceived, as well as subjecting the moral stance of their predecessors to criticism. Freedom of choice regarding the form and content of artwork became one of the main topics of debate among young artists.

Their creative efforts were focused on searching for individual forms of expression and exploring new subject matters. This inspired hope for more creative, more personal and – what is most important – unrestrained works of art.

The Fifth World Festival of Youth and Students, which took place in Warsaw in the year 1955, turned out to be a perfect background for the exhibition, which challenged the socialist realism and academic colorism dominating in art at that time. The exhibition was the first courageous manifestation against the socio-political situation. Despite numerous unusual incidents, it took place in the former Arsenal building in Warsaw. It took only a few days for it to become an important cultural and socio-political event, a symbol of young Poles’ courage in their attempts to break down the barriers created by the Workers’ Party. It was for the first time since the end of World War II that young artists smelled freedom and had the opportunity to create outside the conventions of social realism. They gained hope for a new life without fear, for the joy of making art without the state’s control.

The “ARSENAL 55” Foundation was established in 2018 on the initiative of Wojciech Luterek, who had witnessed the process of creating the exhibition at the Arsenal, in co-operation with the Lubusz Museum in Gorzów Wielkopolski, where works of the artists participating in that legendary undertaking have been collected since 1977. The main goals of the Foundation are: cultivating the memory of uncompromising artists from the time of authoritarian regime; promoting contemporary artists who create uncompromising works of art, free from political influence and of high artistic quality; promoting freedom of creation in a broad sense.