Museum Vocabularies

All contemporary museums function as nodes in a complex web of economic, social and cultural relationships. Their  exhibtion and events programmes are carefully developed over the years of sustained dialogues and exchanges. The truly global set of relations is often enbedded in support systems, trust and inventivness of their individual directors. During his 25 year directorship of the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, Ryszard Stanisławski (1921-2000) has developed friendships with important figures of the museum world, many of whom shaped progressive instituitons especially in Europe. Amongst them were Rudi Oxenaar of Kroller-Muller Museum in Otterlo, Pontus Hulten at Moderna Museet in Stockholm and later Centre Pompidou in Paris, Thomas Messer director of the Guggenheim between 1961 and 1988, Harald Szemaan and Jürgen Harten. Stanisławski’s awarnes of the importance of intellectual exchanges has contributed to the international recognition and status of Muzeum Sztuki and its artists’ centred legacy. The frequent journeys of Stanisławski  to the ‘former west’, represented in the photographs he has taken, draw a more complex map of cultural politics in the pre-1989 Poland. Rather than remaining on the margins he functioned in what could be understood as a ‘state of exception’. What emerges from his photographs is a detailed observation, a form of inventory of the world collapsed into the museum experience. There are images of museum heating systems, door handles, stairwells, as well as cocktail parties and openings, encounters with individual curators, and atmospheric hotel rooms. It is also a picture of the accumulation of knowledge undetected by the political regime of the time, until recently stored in a private archive. Now its value can be examined and re-assesed as it enters the public domain. This particular sequence also records and pre-figures a time before ‘Bilbao effect’ where most cities did not look to museum architecture for economic salvation.

Museum Vocabularies was included in Site Inspection – The Museum of the Museum at Ludwig Museum, Budapest from July 22 – October 23, 2011