MOCAK contemporary art museum is quirky, challenging and at times uncomfortable. But it’s also one of the best

Main entrance to the MOCAK – Museum of Contemporary Art in Cracow, designed by Italian architect Claudio Nardi. MOCAK

Since 2010, enthusiasts of modern art visiting Kraków finally have a space of their own – the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art.

Located across the river in the trendy, up-and-coming Zabłocie district, a neighbourhood that not long ago was a rundown industrial complex, the MOCAK museum is built where parts of Oskar Schindler's Enamel Factory stood before the war.

Dedicated to the latest in Polish and international art, as well as research and education, it is ideal for those looking for a cultural experience unconnected to Kraków’s rich history.

Being off the beaten track, it also gives a welcome break from the usual tourist traps.

MOCAK’s building, utilising the industrial feel of its surroundings, has kept the black shed roofing, combining it with glass and white pristine walls. Although Scandinavian in its simplicity, it was actually designed by Italian Claudio Nardi.

With a lively rotation of exhibitions, those currently on display include over 20 works from Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, Kristian Lupa’s interactive Live Factory 2 about Andy Warhol, and collections by tour-de-forces of the modern artworld such as Paweł Althamer, Tomasz Bajer, and Daniel Arsham.

The museum’s flagship is its annual exhibition organised each May and themed around the relationship between art and an important area of social life.

A noteworthy current addition is the ‘Motherland in Art’ exhibition which raises questions about patriotism and sovereignty.

Jarosław Kozłowski, A United World – the Totalitarian Version, 2000, installation / steel grating, furniture, household accessories, flags, Ø circa 5 mThe MOCAK Collection, photo: R. Sosin

The works by some of Poland’s most renowned modern artists, including Kuba Bąkowski, Oskar Dawicki, Marcin Maciejowski and Paweł Susid provide a scathing commentary on the meaning of national identity.

Depicting elements of post-Soviet mentality, socialist realism and the dubious nature of the national heroes’ veneration and the effects of globalisation, their works are complex and challenging; both a reflection and criticism of the traditional understanding of patriotism.

Works by Jimm Lasser from the United States, Sara Rahbar from Iran, Damir Muratov from Russia, Wang Qingsong from China and others show that questions about the meaning of motherland, attachment to one’s country and what behaviour should result from it are a global exploration.

MOCAK’s two most important aims are presenting the art of the two last decades in the context of the post-war avant-garde and conceptual art as well as clarifying the rationale of creating art by highlighting its cognitive and ethical value and its relationship with everyday reality.

The museum also has its permanent MOCAK Collection which includes over 4,000 works by over 200 artists.

An interesting aside to the exhibitions is the museum’s adjoining Mieczysław Porębski Library.

Named after Poland’s most renowned art historian, it is home to thousands of books, mementoes and records collected during his travels and which for years filled his flat before he handed them over to the museum.

More information about MOCAK can be found HERE.