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Much content, little background - an exhibition on Gaudí in Poznan

11 of March '22

An extensive, exhibit-saturated, Europe's largest exhibition dedicated to Gaudí and his work is now on view at Poznan Castle. The methodical exhibition seeks to deepen the understanding of the architecture of the famous Catalan, in opposition to the simplistic, "tourist" perception of his works. Has it been successful? Partially. However, the situation is salvaged by the rich program accompanying the exhibition.

It was supposed to be ready in the fall of 2020, and has been available since this spring. With a delay blamed on the epidemic, the "Antoni Gaudí" exhibition opened on March 4 at Poznan's Zamek Cultural Center. Stocked with more than 150 exhibits, the exhibition occupied the spacious space of the second floor of a neo-Romanesque building, which - an interesting reference - was built at the same time as some of the Catalan architect's best-known works (1905-10). Spanish curator and director of Aurea Cultura i Art, Charo Sanjuán Gómez takes a methodical approach to Gaudí, offering a kind of lecture dissected in successive rooms of the Castle. He deliberately emphasizes the creator's engineering talent and the lesser-known aspects of his work - as a counterpoint to the superficial perception of it focused on its unusual form, facades and colors. The curatorial text reads:

Intellectual rigor and integrity are the basic values necessary to describe the person and work of Antoni Gaudí. (...) Both of these qualities are necessary for a thorough understanding of the figure and work of this great architect. The commercial and touristic harassment, widespread polemics and mystical declarations that surround them do not help to explore Gaudí's work and thought.

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The exhibition "Antoni Gaudí" at Poznan's CK Zamek

photo: Jakub Glaz

one by one about everything

The main part of the clearly and legibly arranged exhibition thus leads chronologically through the life and achievements of the architect. Of greatest value here are the presentations of his early, lesser-known achievements, as well as his sculptural accomplishments. The story of the fate of the construction of the most important and still unfinished Sagrada Familia church also resonates as a must-read. Subsequent rooms, on the other hand, are devoted to Gaudi's more important or iconic works. Above all, the attention is drawn to the monochromatic white mo ck-ups, headed by a huge rendering of Casa Milà, or the famous la Pedrera (the quarry). Thanks to them, there is an opportunity to look at both thestructural solutions and the "fifth façade," that is, the roofs and terraces so artistically elaborated by Gaudí.

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The exhibition "Antoni Gaudí" at Poznan's CK Zamek

photo: Jakub Glaz

We can also look at the complementary nature of the architect's work through the prism of interior furnishings: original woodwork or ironwork, ceramic fittings and tiles, as well as copies of several pieces of furniture. There is also the opportunity to literally feel for ourselves the ergonomic shapes of the handles or handles. Their copies, like mock-ups of the pinnacles adorning the roofs of Gaudi's houses, can be freely touched. A mapping dedicated to Casa Batlló is also a multimedia addition. Finally, a sizable installation of cords and weights hanging from the ceiling is exposed in the last room. This "multi-string model" is intended as a reinterpretation of Gaudí's research on forces and loads. The architect created similar models to test unusual structural solutions. However, the exhibition does not explain to the layperson in any depth what this research consisted of, informing only that

a rational structure emerges from under the form, and Gaudi's architecture is wonderfully full of invention, innovative structural solutions, being the fruit of his own genius and uniqueness. It is the result of research and enormous, meticulous work to which he devoted his entire life.

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The exhibition "Antoni Gaudí" at Poznan's CK Zamek

photo: Jakub Glaz

poorly present background

The deficiency, moreover, occurs more often - Gaudí lacks a stronger grounding in time and architectural history. The viewer learns that the protagonist of the exhibition and his achievements were unique, but there are few chances to make relevant comparisons. The curator does not show what Gaudí's contemporaries were building in his time - from Art Nouveau to Expressionism to the first blocks of fledgling Modernism. She only mentions the names of a few significant artists of the era. Meanwhile, for the average viewer, such a juxtaposition would have been invaluable - thanks to both the contrast and the similarities, since Gaudi the builder was, after all, closer to the Modernists than to the Art Nouveau decorators. This story, however, does not resonate as strongly as it deserves. We are informed ex cathedra that Gaudi was a great artist, sometimes explaining why, but rather failing to make it felt. A few photos of the accomplishments of other architects of the era would have been a considerable help.

Fortunately, organizers from the Poznan Castle have made sure that these and other aspects will resonate during the numerous lectures and workshops - a program accompanying the exhibition until its closing in July. Participants will learn, among other things, what Barcelona looked like in Gaudí's time, There will also be an opportunity to get acquainted with distant Polish echoes of the Catalan's work: a lecture devoted to the architecture of Stanislaw Niemczyk is planned. And a meeting with the authors of the project and the book "Architecture of the 7th Day" will allow to compare the unique forms of Gaudí's architecture with the equally unusual sacred architecture of post-war Poland.

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The exhibition "Antoni Gaudí" in Poznan's CK Zamek

photo: Jakub Głaz

castle and nature

Finally, a series of meetings focused on the relationship between nature and architecture - the influence of the former on the formation of organic, unusual forms - will probably provide interesting insights. These, by the way, are just a few selected topics discussed on the sidelines of the main story. There are many more, and the exhibition is also accompanied by two other exhibitions. The first, already open, deals with the history of the construction and transformation of Poznan Castle. The second, called "The Essence of Beauty," will be available from the end of April, juxtaposing photographs of insects with architecture.

Only supported by such a rich and varied program can the exhibition more fully reflect the essence of Gaudí's achievements. For those who experienced them in Barcelona, the exhibition itself can be a valuable addition to their knowledge. Those who have not had the opportunity to encounter Gaudí in person are unlikely to have the opportunity to fully feel the impact of his verging on fairy-tale-like creations. So after the tour - it's time for a trip to Barcelona.

Jakub Glaz


March 5-July 3, 2022
ZAMEK Cultural Center in Poznań

curator: Charo Sanjuán Gómez

Organizer: ZAMEK Culture Center in Poznań, City of Poznań, Aurea Cultura i Art

Exhibition open in the Exhibition Hall and spaces of the West Wing of the Castle
Tuesday-Sunday from 12-8pm, Thursdays from 12-2pm

Accompanying exhibitions

The Castle Project
23.02.-27.04. Great Hall / free entrance

curator: Maria Fenrych

arrangement: Maria Fenrych, Wojciech Luchowski

substantive consultation: Janusz Pazder, Maciej Szymaniak

artwork: Ewa Hejnowicz

The essence of beauty
30.04.-3.07. Great Hall / free entrance

curator: Agata Miatkowska-Gołdyn

photography: Bogusław Daraż

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