"It is not true that Polish shops had nothing to offer in the Communist times. They had Ciałowicz.”*
That’s how a trip around the capital of Lower Silesia could have started – by following the traces of Tadeusz Ciałowicz, an only recently “discovered” full-scale designer who created in Wroclaw and for Wroclaw. Not only did he design the interiors of “Precyzja” and “Fotografika”, but also of a pharmacy at the intersection of Nowowiejska and Wyszyńskiego and the “Jedwabie” store at Świdnicka. However, these days, anyone willing to visit these places would fail immediately. “Precycja” has been replaced by Starbucks and a jewelry store occupies the former space of the “Fotografika” studio. “Jedwabie” is no longer there and the pharmacy has not even a modicum of original design. We can get to know Ciałowicz’s designs only thanks to the fact that he has also been an amateur photographer, scrupulously documenting his work.
The exhibition “Ciałowicz. A designer from Wroclaw” , the opening of which took place on July 22, 2016 at the Museum of Architecture in Wroclaw, features a wide collection of Ciałowicz’s photographs. They allow us to enter the already non-existent spaces, look at neon lights from the past and explore years-old displays. Step by step, several decades of the history of Wroclaw seen through the eyes of an artist-designer, unfold in front of visitors. Apart from photographs selected from an archive, the exhibition includes Ciałowicz’s posters, logos, furniture designs and statements.
During the opening, Kalina Zatorska and Marian Misiak from Fundacja 102, the curators of the exhibition and authors of a book “Zwiedzajcie Piastowski Wroclaw” [Explore the Piast Wroclaw], referred to Ciałowicz as their master. This reference recurs in the descriptions under the photographs as well as in the book. After their first meeting with Ciałowicz, both Zatorska and Misiak were astonished to discover the artist’s work and an activity of the designers’ environment in Wroclaw, to which he was closely connected. They realized that young designers from Wroclaw could start holding Ciałowicz up as a model they didn’t have so far. The first time the curators heard about the artist was during a discussion about a competition for the European Capital of Culture logo. Unsatisfied with what they’d got, they posted to a discussion group, giving the Museum of Architecture logo and the Wratislavia Cantans poster as models. They didn’t know who the author of both works was and discovered it only thanks to Ewa Kaszewska, a collector of Wroclaw’s contemporary art.
The exhibition at the Museum of Architecture takes the shape of an invitation to follow Ciałowicz’s steps. The spirit of a post-war Wroclaw full of Ciałowicz’s works can be felt among old photographs, Wratislavia Cantans posters, the Trufla stool designs and ads encouraging to shop at grocery stores of the time. Neon lights of his design invited people to enter cafes, movie theaters and hotels, while his posters promoted numerous cultural events and national holidays. Today, shops with TV sets and radios have been replaced with chain cafes and the neon “Zwiedzajcie Piastowski Wroclaw” has been overshadowed by the latest architecture.
So, is there anything that has survived to our times? Most certainly, it’s the Museum of Architecture logo which, designed in 1965, was the first logo of a cultural institution in the post-war city and has been used in its original form ever since! Also, the logos of Towarzystwo Przyjacioł Wroclawia and Huta Metali Niezaleznych Hutmen (the shape of which has been slightly modified) have been in use to this day. Having a walk in Wroclaw, you can also encounter a former logo of Bank Zachodni designed by Ciałowicz. Unfortunately, this is it. Wroclaw wasn’t as lucky as Jelenia Góra, whose textile store “Karkonosze” has remained unchanged.
One of Tadeusz Ciałowicz’s quoted statements reads as follows:
"The grayness of my life is embellished thanks to my participation in competitions, for I like proving myself in a rough sports-like competition".
In the past, this sporting spirit was focused on the local activity closely linked to Wroclaw and Lower Silesia. The exhibition “Ciałowicz. A designer from Wroclaw” may become a journey through the post-war Wroclaw – the city which may not have had many places we know today, but it certainly had Ciałowicz.
You still have time to see the exhibition – it’s open until the 4th of September. If you can’t make it, make sure you will have a look at the book and go to Wroclaw to follow the traces of once existent works of Ciałowicz the master. Wroclaw-specific discoveries guaranteed!
* Łukasz Kliś, the curatorial statement for the exhibition “Ciałowicz. A designer from Wroclaw”
** „Zwiedzajcie Piastowski Wrocław. Tadeusz Ciałowicz – projektant totalny” [Explore the Piast Wroclaw. Tadeusz Ciałowicz – a full-scale designer] Kalina Zatorska, Marian Misiak, Fundacja 102, Wroclaw 2015, price: PLN 49
Text: Asia Flisek
Photos: Courtesy of Fundacja 102