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Łempicka exhibition draws record crowds to Kraków National Museum

15.03.2023 18:30
An exhibition of work by Polish Art Deco artist Tamara Łempicka drew a record number of visitors to the National Museum in Kraków, southern Poland, with long queues forming in the last few weeks of the show, officials said.
The National Museum in Kraków, southern Poland.
The National Museum in Kraków, southern Poland.Photo: PAP/Łukasz Gągulski

The Łempicka exhibition opened at the museum in September last year. It closed on Sunday, March 12.

A painter of Polish descent, Łempicka was one of the most significant representatives of the Art Deco style. Her work enjoys immense popularity around the world.

The Kraków exhibition was the largest presentation of the artist’s work in Poland in the last 50 years, showcasing 60 of her paintings from the full spectrum of her career, alongside memorabilia including paintbrushes, clothes, furniture and machines.

Over 30 of the paintings came from museums and private collections in Europe and the United States.

Grzegorz Musiał o życiu Tamary Łempickiej: bogata burżuazja na styku dwóch kultur. Photo: PAP/Wojtek Jargiło

The last two weeks of the show saw immense crowds of people queuing to a catch a glimpse of the iconic artwork.

Over 125,000 people came to see the exhibition, "a record number of visitors," the director of the Kraków National Museum, Andrzej Szczerski, said.

He added that "it was a unique presentation of the artist’s works, very much appreciated by the Polish public, which admires Łempicka's legacy."

Szczerski told reporters: "It was a world-class exhibition ... We will not be seeing so many works by Tamara Łempicka in one place in Poland for some time now."

He also said that the curators had brought some of the works from museums around the world, mostly from France, "creating a unique exhibition.”

Łempicka was born in Moscow in 1898. Her father was a Russian Jew. Her mother came from a wealthy Polish family.

She was proud of her Polish heritage, always saying that she was born in Warsaw.

She started art classes in St. Petersburg, where she met her first husband Tadeusz Łempicki, but had to flee the city from the Bolsheviks to settle in Paris.

It was in France that her career gained momentum. In the mid-1920s, Łempicka showed her works in Paris and elsewhere, including in Poland, and her popularity soon translated into financial success.

Her art appealed to the tastes of the affluent bourgeoisie, and so did the topics taken up by the artist.

She focused mainly on portraits and still-life paintings, but she mostly painted nudes. Female aristocrats and the wives of rich industrialists ordered their portraits in large numbers, more often than not life-size.

Having divorced her first husband and remarried, Łempickdecided to leave Europe for the United States in 1938 and soon grew to be the favourite portrait painter of Hollywood stars, as well as of the social and financial elites.

However, her career slowly began to decline despite the artist's attempts to change her style to catch up with new trends in art.

After the death of her husband in 1962, Łempicka gave up painting and moved to Mexico, where she died in 1980.

Before the launch of the Kraków exhibition, several of Łempicka's works were also shown at the National Museum in Lublin, eastern Poland, at an exhibition entitled Tamara Łempicka: A Woman on a Journey, as well as in the Warsaw suburb of Konstancin, at a private gallery, both gathering huge crowds of visitors.

Łempicka is the most expensive Polish artist in history and the third most expensive artist in the world. Her works are part of collections of celebrities such as Madonna, Barbra Streisand and Jack Nicholson.

Her 1932 painting Portrait de Marjorie Ferry sold for USD 22.4 million at an auction at the Christie’s auction house in London in 2020.


Click on the audio player above to listen to a report by Radio Poland's Agnieszka Bielawska.