Reszel "Castle" Gallery

Reszel Castle Gallery

Author: Grzegorz Kumorowicz

The Gallery is located in the south wing of the Warmia Bishops' Palace. Two large halls (400 m2 each) house the exhibition. The Gothic castle in Reszel is a four-wing brick building erected on a square plan. It was built in place of the old wooden watchtower, in the south-eastern part of the city, in the bend of the River Sajna. Construction was commenced by Bishop John of Meissen in 1350, and finished by Bishop Henryk Sorbom around the year 1401. In 1505, the castle was surrounded by defensive walls. After the incorporation of Warmia into Poland (1466), the castle lost its original defensive significance and, in the second half of the 16th century, was converted into the bishops' summer residence. Until 1772, it was also the administrative centre of the Reszel district.
In the years 1823–1945, the spacious interior of today's gallery served as an Evangelical church. From 1976 to 1985 a general renovation was conducted, as a result of which this monumental area was given a new function – Gallery of Contemporary Art, and made available to tourists.
The "Pojezierze" Social and Cultural Society was the patron of the Reszel Castle in the years 1958–1990. During that time, numerous plein-air workshops and artistic events took place here. The castle became the seat of the Culture Centre run by Barbara and Andrzej Hulanicki, where a weaving workshop operated for many years. Over the following years, the Castle was managed by Bolesław Marschall, a sculptor, and his wife Jolanta.
In the early 80s, under the aegis of the "Pojezierze" Social and Cultural Society and in cooperation with the, suspended at the time, Association of Polish Artists and Designers, two painting plein-air workshops took place there, and the "Castle" gallery was established. An independent initiative were the exhibitions from Biennale, Venice, held in the years 1985–1989. Among artists who exhibited their works were Andrzej Fogtt and Bożenna Biskupska (1985), Bronisław Chromy, Franciszek Starowieyski, Andrzej Kreutz – Majewski and Tadeusz Malkiewicz (1987), Izabela Gustowska, Władysław Jackiewicz and Antoni Porczak (1989).
Franciszek Starowieyski, and his many years of artistic work, made a permanent record in the cultural history of the "Castle" Gallery and the city of Reszel, where three of his exhibitions were held: in 1987 – a collective exhibition, in 1992 – an individual exhibition presenting his painting works, and in 2003 – a retrospective exhibition presenting posters from the collections of Piotr Dąbrowski and Agnieszka Kulon, as well as from the Poster Museum in Wilanów, National Museum in Poznań and the Museum of Warmia and Masuria in Olsztyn. In 2007, Starowieyski received honorary citizenship of Reszel, whereas in 2008, a cast of his hand was made at the Castle and built into one of the walls of the courtyard, where an inscription was added post-mortem (2009): "Here, in the years 1986–2009, worked the outstanding artist, Franciszek Starowieyski". The Reszel Gallery permanently holds his large-format painting – the monumental Drawing Theater Pielgrzymka do Świętego Półkonia (consisting of 13 sections with overall dimensions of 4 x 25.35 m), which was presented in Venice in 1986, and since 1989 has been the property of the Museum of Warmia and Masuria in Olsztyn.
Through many years of cultural activity, the "Castle" Gallery in Reszel has become a unique centre for contemporary art in the region, where numerous Polish and foreign artists have presented their works. Already mentioned Franciszek Starowieyski, Natalia LL, Edward Dwurnik, Paweł Althamer, professors from the circle of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. On display here are also collections from the Museum of Warmia and Masuria in Olsztyn. The Gallery often holds theatrical events, as well as artistic performances and meetings, among others, the international "Fine Arts Days" promoting the Polish-German artistic cooperation.