The Myth of Galicia

International Cultural Centre, Kraków
From 10 October 2014 to 8 March 2015
Galicia no longer exists. It disappeared from the map of Europe in 1918 together with the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, whose province it had been. Yet, it still lives as a imagined space in the collective imagination and memory. The Krakow exhibition seeks to answer the question about the source and contemporary condition of the myth, trying to find out why literature, visual arts, and film still refer to it, while Galicia itself is used as an attractive brand.

The exhibition confronts mythical images with historical facts and with the perspective of nations entangled in the history of Galicia. This confrontation reveals the partly shared and partly diverse meanings of Galicia for Poles, Ukrainians, Austrians, and Jews, suggesting how the myth of Galicia functions in collective imagination, culture, social and political life. The exhibition presents Galicia as a land of paradoxes. On the one hand, it was a space of development of national identities and cultures, on the other, the ethnic differences between the groups locked within artificially created borders led to numerous tensions. With the development of the railway network and the discovery of oil reservoirs, Galicia, the poorest and the most backward province of the monarchy, suddenly experienced civilizational leap and became the place where many fortunes were made.

“The Myth of Galicia” includes almost 600 exhibits – art works, archive materials, and artefacts – which have not been previously displayed in the context of the research on Galicia and its cultural heritage. It showcases works by e.g. Jacek Malczewski, Maurycy Gottlieb, and Włodzimierz Tetmajer, while the pieces by contemporary Polish artists, such as Tadeusz Kantor and Mirosław Bałka, will be shown next to the works of their Ukrainian colleagues: Yurko Koch and Vlodko Kostyrko. The display is complemented by historic documents, a unique collection of antique maps, and objects of everyday use.

The exhibition is divided into fours sections.
The first one serves as an introduction to its main topics.
The second presents the founding myth of Galicia, whose beginnings date back to the partition of Poland, bringing forward Polish, Ukrainian, Austrian, and Jewish perspectives.
The third one presents various aspects of Galicia in the years 1772–1918, from mapping, through economy and infrastructure, to religion, education, and culture. An important part in this section is the autonomy that the province gained in 1867, as well as the dissolution of Galicia and the entire Austrian-Hungarian Empire.
The fourth section – “Galicia after Galicia” – is devoted to the contemporary versions of Galician myth: the peculiar attachment to Franz Joseph, or the commercial use of Galicia as a brand.

The exhibition comes as a conclusion to the four-year-long research project that addressed the multi-national historic heritage of Galicia, which the International Cultural Centre realised in collaboration with the Institut für den Donauraum und Mitteleuropa in Vienna. The participants, experts on Galicia, historians, writers, and representatives of cultural institutions of the three countries – Austria, Poland, and Ukraine – traced the process of shaping of Galician myth and its contemporary reception and significance to use the research results to draft the script for the display. The exhibition was organised in collaboration with the Wien Museum, where it will be on show in 2015.

The exhibition is under the honorary patronage of:
The Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland, Professor Małgorzata Omilanowska;
The Mayor of the City of Krakow, Professor Jacek Majchrowski;
the Federal Minister for Arts and Culture, Constitution and Public Service, Dr. Josef Ostermayer;
The Mayor of Vienna, Dr. Michael Häup