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The collectors Joanna and Mariusz Bednarski talk about Polish poster art

The collectors Joanna and Mariusz Bednarski in the Pigasus Polish Poster Gallery in Berlin, September 2015.
The collectors Joanna and Mariusz Bednarski in the Pigasus Polish Poster Gallery in Berlin, September 2015.

The last time I visited your gallery you told me about your collection of Polish poster art. When did you start collecting?

M: At the start it was really an unconscious decision. At the beginning of the 1980s, I was sixteen at the time, Poland was rather gloomy and the only real signs of colour were the posters on the streets. On top of that they were free. Almost every teenager in Poland had posters in their room at the time. We were really proper collectors then. I used to travel once a month from Szczecin to Warsaw in order to go to the theatre and visit galleries, and every time I went to Warsaw I brought back posters. There were thousands of posters in the cinemas. In those days the journey wasn’t easy because the trip from Szczecin to Warsaw took almost 12 hours.

How many different titles are there in your collection today?

J: That’s difficult to say; about 6 - 7000. At the moment I am trying to catalogue the collection. We’ve only put a part of the collection on our homepage.

Posters that are hot off the press are very sensitive. How do store your collection?

J: Mostly in metal cabinets with drawers – at times we also purchase them second-hand. We can then lie the posters flat. Some of them we take from the Polish Cultural Institute. We keep a few posters in rolls when there are a lot of copies, because we produce a poster for every exhibition in our shop, and this is specially commissioned from the artist in question. If you have a poster gallery it’s only logical to have a good poster for every exhibition. The print run with offset prints amounts to 250 copies which we share with the artist. With screenprints we produce sixty copies.

Do you have any favourite objects in your collection, and are there particularly rare posters?

M: Of course we have our favourites and there are also particularly rare posters. I’m not talking about a particular amount but about posters from particular artists. For example my favourite is Jan Lenica, who used to work in Berlin; apart from that Henryk Tomaszewski. A year ago he had a wonderful retrospective in Warsaw. The Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw displayed almost all of his work. It was only when I visited this exhibition that I began to understand Tomaszewski. He is very minimalist.

See you been collecting since the 1980s. But at what point in time did this become a professional collection?

M: With the Internet of course. We first got the Internet in the 90s. It was there that we found out that people not only collected posters but also traded in them. On top of that we got to know a collector from Poznań who came to Berlin every weekend to sell posters from his collection at the flea market on the Straße des 17. Juni. We also got to know other collectors via the Internet. This was the start of a very close exchange amongst collectors. Even now we have an exchange with half a dozen collectors, most of whom live in Poland. We collaborate strongly with the Cracow Poster Gallery run by Krzysztof Dydo. J: Of course there are also people with their own small collections who sometimes have more than one copy of a poster. There are two of these people in Berlin and also a few in other German cities. So all in all we have a very close contact with around ten collectors.

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