Gallery ŻAK | BRANICKA, Berlin
I rescued myself by running into the gallery twenty minutes before my appointment: the late summer sun in Berlin had been transformed into a violent storm with an oncoming wall of threatening clouds. I needed a few moments to realise that I had landed in another age. There were no staff to be seen. Only in the background could I make out a voice on the telephone. I walked up to the heavy counter and looked into the 1930s office. The style of the furniture, the typography and the posters were clearly recognisable. Had I been really transported back into the time of the Nazis, I could have booked a flight with Deutsche Luft Hansa AG immediately. On the visitors' desk, stuck in an old-fashioned newspaper holder, lay a news sheet dated 1932. The title picture showed a bearded pilot wearing a Lufthansa cap.
But everything is fake. All the pictures in the newspaper carry the same caption: “Pilot Robert Kuśmirowski sprawdzający maszynę przed odlotem”/“The pilot Robert Kuśmirowski controls the plane before take-off”. The newspaper is simultaneously the gallery's spring edition. In several places there is an interview with the Slovenian architect, Miloš Kosec and a dummy page containing a report on the Polish artist Ryszard Wasko, whom the gallery represents. The pilot on the title picture is in reality the artist responsible for the whole installation: Robert Kuśmirowski was born in Łódź in 1973 and now lives in Lublin. He is known for his construction of imaginary time capsules and fake photos, counterfeits and perfectly constructed replicas of historic objects, often from the Nazi era, which undermine and throw into question our collective memories. This time the artist had chosen a photograph of the Lufthansa office – it was situated in a building in Lindenstaße 35 between 1928 and 1938 – as a starting point for his current installation. “Take a seat”, says Monika Branicka, one of the two people who run the gallery, “you can use this installation.”
The art critic and historian arrived in Berlin from Kraków in 2007. Here she set up her own first-ever gallery. Acquaintances informed her that the artist Asia Żak, who also comes from Kraków, had also set up a gallery in the centre of the city. They made friends with each other and three months later decided to merge their galleries. In 2008 the young gallery, ŻAK | BRANICKA presented nine partly simultaneous exhibitions, and in the same year took part in a consortium for gallery owners in Berlin, abc art berlin contemporary, (it holds an annual meeting every year in mid-September), where Monika Branicka now has a seat on the advisory board.