Tadeusz Kantor. Member of the Polish Avant-Garde and Theatre Reformer

September 9 – December 18, 2011
Kumu Art Museum, 4th floor, B-wing


An exhibition introducing the oeuvre of the internationally renowned Polish Avant-Garde artist and theatre reformer Tadeusz Kantor was opened at Kumu Art Museum on Thursday, 8 September at 6 pm. The exhibition focuses on Kantor’s work in theatre as well as in figurative art, featuring his legendary stage designs, documentation of performances and happenings, and his paintings and sketches.


“The exhibition displays stage props central to Kantor’s production, which played a key role in his performances,” says Ellu Maar, the coordinator of the exhibition. “Kantor was also his performances’s scenographer and the stage objects he created conveyed an important independent value in his plays, to the degree of being equally relevant to the stage language along with the actors. In addition, the exhibition will also introduce Kantor as a painter.”


The exhibition focuses on the years 1960–1975, when Tadeusz Kantor (1915–1990) collaborated with the experimental Cricot 2 Theatre (formed in 1955, Kantor being a co-founder) and directed the plays The Country House (1961), The Madman and the Nun (1963), The Water Hen (1967) and Lovelies and Dowdies (1973), based on the avantgardist plays by the dramaturg and artist Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. The selection of works is topped off with stage props from the world-famous performance The Dead Class (1975). The latter was based on the texts by Witkiewicz, Witold Gobrowicz and Bruno Schultz.


The performances also mark different stages in Kantor’s oeuvre, which the artist himself called the Informel Theatre, Zero Theatre, Happening Theatre and the Theatre of Death. From 1966 to 1969, Kantor organized a number of happenings, the first ones in Poland, in collaboration with the Cricot 2 troupe.

In addition to his activities in theatre, the exhibition also introduces Kantor as a painter. Kantor was the first to introduce Informalism in Poland in the 1950s – abstract manner of painting that spread in post-war Europe and especially in France. In the 1960s, Kantor’s work became to be associated with the concept of ’emballage’ (from French, meaning ‘to pack’), which was expressed in over-painted objects such as packages, umbrellas etc attached to the canvas. The action Multipart, carried out in 1970 in Warsaw at the Foksal Gallery with umbrella paintings, serves as a fine illustration of Kantor’s work, which was processual and driven by intervention.


The first exhibition to introduce Kantor’s oeuvre in Estonia has been put together based on the collections from the Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor in Kraków, the Starmach Gallery in Kraków, the Wroclaw National Museum, the Częstochowa Museum and Polish private collections. The curator of the exhibition is Jósef Chrobak from Cricoteka.


The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of lectures and documentaries and a catalogue.

The exhibition was organized in collaboration with the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Tallinn. Patrons of the exhibition are Rein Lang and Bogdan Zdrojewski, minister of Culture and National Heritage of Poland. The exhibition is subsidized by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.

The exhibition Tadeusz Kantor. Polish Avant-Gardist and theatre reformer will remain open at the Kumu Art Museum until 18 December 2011.