(Originally published on 24 February 2011 in IHT/NY Times

BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA — The Bratislava art scene has always played second fiddle to Vienna — a 45-minute drive from the Slovak capital — and Prague, which for generations was where Slovak artists decamped for cultural enlightenment. But these days, small galleries are starting to have a big impact not only on the local scene but on the regional one as well. HIT Gallery is one of the most influential.
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(originally published by the New York Times/IHT –November 15 2010)

WARSAW — Unbeknownst to most residents of 64 Aleja Solidarnosci (Solidarity Boulevard) — a drab gray Communist block near Old Town in Warsaw — an apartment on the top floor is one of the most important places in Poland’s avant-garde art history.

It was in No. 118 that two of the country’s most influential 20th-century avant-garde artists — Henryk Stazewski (1894-1988) and Edward Krasinski (1925-2004) — lived and worked for more than two decades. It is now home to the Instytut Awangardy (Avant-Garde Institute), a museum, exhibition and archive space. Read more

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By GINANNE BROWNELL

(originally published in the New York Times)

POZNAN, POLAND — The premise of the exhibition “Erased Walls,” being held during the Mediations Biennale here until Oct. 30, is laudable. Instead of looking back at the art executed in Central and Eastern Europe before 1989 — the focus of many recent shows, including one this year at the Pompidou Center — “Erased Walls” is touted as exploring art from the region since 2000, in geopolitical, economic, cultural and artistic contexts.

While “Erased Walls” includes some interesting pieces that do explore these issues, it falls short of its desired goal. Read more

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photo from Lokal_30 Gallery, Warsaw

Eastern Promises

by Ginanne Brownell July 18, 2010

Among the well-established galleries from New York, Paris, and London showing works at Art Basel Switzerland last month, a smattering of galleries from Central and Eastern Europe stood out, showing video installations, photographs, and huge landscape paintings: Warsaw’s Foksal Gallery Foundation; Ljubljana, Slovenia’s Galerija Gregor Podnar; and the Hunt Kastner Gallery from Prague. They are among those from the former East bloc fast gaining a reputation as important players on the international contemporary-art scene. And it wasn’t just at the main art fair that the Eastern European galleries promoted their wares; across town at the Liste Young Art Fair, which highlights up-and-coming artists, galleries from Romania, Hungary, Poland, and Lithuania showcased pieces by such artists as Janek Simon of Poland, who displayed vials of holy water next to laboratory-analysis of its chemical composition, and Bulgaria’s Kamen Stoyanov, whose Plaster Me installation featured a talking stuffed tiger.

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by Ginanne Brownell

(originally published in Newsweek)

Almost two years ago London’s Victoria and Albert Museum held an exhibition titled Cold War Modern, examining how the U.S. and the countries of the former Eastern bloc were fighting a proxy war in the world of design. Besides the obvious geopolitical aspects of the show, I was most intrigued by how much of the region’s design I had never seen before. Well, that’s all over now. Designers from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have become increasingly ubiquitous, making creative waves in some of the world’s biggest markets. In April, London’s Mint gallery held a monthlong exhibition called Chez Czech, which featured Czech glass and ceramics. At Milan’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile in May, designers like Slovenia’s Nika Zupanc and Hungary’s János Hübler created some serious buzz with their avant-garde pieces, and the Polish Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo features building structures made from paper cutouts—an ironic nod to iconic Polish folk art. Read more