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The dispute over Krakow's "Kossakówka" is over? It is already known what kind of museum will be created in the historic manor house

16 of July '21

Representatives of the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art and the Krakow City Hall 's Department of Culture have presented the final concept for the museum to be built in the historic "Kossakówka" manor house, once owned by the artistic Kossak family. This is a symbolic end to the heated dispute between MOCAK director Maria Anna Potocka and Krakow councilors over the shape of the museum. It stood on the concept suggested by the councilors. As a result, there will be another so-called biographical museum in Krakow arranged in the artists' house.

"Kossakówka," a neo-Gothic manor house with a villa at 4 Juliusz Kossak Square in Krakow, once owned by the artistic Kossak family, has been the subject of discussion and dispute for many years. After successive members of the Kossak family died, the future of the manor was uncertain. The century-old building and its surroundings were increasingly unattractive and looked more and more like a ruin. When "Kossakówka" was threatened with demolition after World War II, thanks to Elżbieta, wife of Jerzy Kossak (grandson of Juliusz Kossak), it was possible to put the manor house on the national heritage list. The state partially renovated the manor, but the effects of the work did not last long. Year after year, the historic building and its surroundings were in worse condition. The activities that had been carried out there for the past 40 years were only meant to keep "Kossakówka" alive. Starting this year, this was to change.

"Kossakówka" has long been in need of a major overhaul

Photo: R. Sosin

Museum in "Kossakówka": great plans and great dispute

As "Kossakówka" is located in Krakow, the city, after many years since the manor was taken over by the state, began efforts to purchase it in order to renovate the building and create a museum there dedicated to the history and work of the Kossak family. Noteworthy is the fact that the city paid PLN 5.5 million for the building. This did not happen until 2019. The mansion, along with a preliminary plan for its revitalization, was handed over to MOCAK(Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow). The institution was to handle the development and implementation of the concept for the revitalization of the building, with a particular focus on its new function.

No one predicted that the historic mansion would soon become the source of a heated social dispute. All because of different perspectives on understanding the cultural value that the history and achievements of the Kossak family represent for the Polish national heritage, as well as different visions of their memorial site.

In 2020, MOCAK director Maria Anna Potocka proposed creating a modern Museum of Art History in "Kossakówka," which would include an exhibition hall and a café. Potocka's concept also called for the addition of a new exhibition pavilion, which would make it possible to create the MOCAK Educational Center with the "Kossakówka" Museum of Art History in Krakow.

This idea, however, did not sit well with councilors and some residents of Krakow , as Marta Kowalska wrote in more detail in A&B in the article "What fate awaits Kossakówka? Kraków's dispute over an unusual manor house". The councilors didn't like the fact that Potocka is modernizing the concept of the museum, rather than following the already laid out path of creating so-called biographical museums, such as Cricoteka (a museum dedicated to the work of Tadeusz Kantor). The MOCAK director was also accused of undermining the architectural and cultural value of the building, as well as the work of the Kossak family. This is because Potocka diagnosed such perceptions of the achievements of the artistic family from Krakow as a cultural myth on the basis of which, the city authorities want to create a museum, for which she was also criticized.

With councilors and critical voices of Krakow residents against her, who spared no negative comments on social media, Potocka withdrew from the concept of the "Kossakówka" Museum of Art History.

In the end, it was decided that MOCAK would handle the renovation of the historic building and the preparation of an exhibition dedicated to commemorating the members of the Kossak family, who, according to the city authorities, have made a strong mark in the history of Polish culture and art.

The planned exhibition is to show the history of the place and the cultural role of the Kossak family. It will consist of, among other things, paintings, fragments of texts, films with archival materials and photographs, and a library. The arrangement of the villa, in accordance with the preserved documents, will try to show the genius loci of the place and reinforce the message of the Kossaks' cultural influence against the background of the era. At the same time, the selection of a contractor for the revitalization of Kossak Square along with the villa's immediate surroundings, i.e. the garden, will be carried out, " reads the website of the Cracow City Hall.

Final decision: another biographical museum in Krakow

Two months after the decision was made, at a press conference held on July 13, Krakow councilors and MOCAK representatives presented the final concept of the museum's shape. There will be a biographical museum arranged in the Kossaks' house. The 200 square meters are to include rooms for each of the painters, which will house an exhibition relating to the artists' lives.

We will try to recreate the atmosphere of the house. We are designing interiors in a residential style ,"Maria Anna Potocka saidat the conference.

The interior of the "Kossakowka"

photo: R. Sosin

In addition to the rooms of painters from the Kossak family, a room of Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska is also to be created. According to announcements, the museum will also feature a "family library", which will house books by Magdalena Samozwaniec or Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, among others. There will also be an educational space, located on the second floor of the building.There are also plans to create a small bookstore, a veranda or a Juliusz and Wojciech Kossak painting pavilion.

Interior of "Kossakowka"

photo: R. Sosin

The project for the development of Kossak Square, including the garden, is expected to be known in December this year. City authorities have announced that they will hold an international competition for that project in August. However, they do not plan to hold public consultations.

The renovation and revitalization works are spread over the next three years: 2021-2024, part of which has already been done. The entire investment may consume as much as PLN 7.5 million , estimates Roman Krzysztofik, deputy director of MOCAK.

Is this the end of the dispute over the Kossak family museum in Krakow? Not necessarily. Maria Anna Potocka reports that she is not abandoning her initial concept. Moreover, it is still MOCAK that holds the reins over the shape of the museum. It remains to wait for the final project and the results of its implementation, which we will keep you posted on.

Katarzyna Domagała

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