New branch of the Gdansk City Gallery

House of Daniel Chodowiecki and Günter Grass

Many modern cities base their promotion on displaying their history and links with well-known personalities. But Gdańsk is not an ordinary city - based on its great history, it not only learns and experiences from it, but constantly co-creates and reinterprets it. Hence the idea of creating the House of Daniel Chodowiecki and Günter Grass.

If it was purelya matter of advertising, one could stop just at the creation of the Günter Grass Gallery in Gdańsk, a horse trail following the footsteps of Daniel Chodowiecki or just make these authors patrons of Gdańsk trams. But Grass's work has a unique value for Gdańsk, just as Gdańsk was not only his place of birth. The great importance attached to constant dialogue, fidelity to one's own convictions combined with openness and curiosity about other peopleand the world, awareness of one's own identity and a constant search for answers to questions arising from changes in reality - these are characteristic features of both Grass's work and that of modern Gdańsk. The same applies to Chodowiecki, recognised by Grass as the embodiment of a true European and a man open to the world: "But maybe all of us, especially Poles and Germans, would benefit from Daniel Chodowiecki's example," he wrote. This illustrator and copper engraver was both a Pole and a Prussian.In his sketches, a Lutheran pastor stands next to a Polish rafter. As a follower of the Reformed Evangelical faith, he leaned towards the ideas of the European Enlightenment. According to his strong convictions, he was whatboth Germans and Poles were: he was a European.

Daniel Mikołaj Chodowiecki (painter and illustrator, author of a Diary from his trip to Gdańsk in 1773,with over a hundred drawings of, among others, the Suffering of young Werter by Goethe or Jacques the Fatalistby Diderot) and Günter Grass (writer, illustrator, sculptor, author of the Gdańsk trilogy: Tin drum, Cat and Mouse, Dogs Years). They share not only theirplace of birth, but also the date: they both were born on 16thOctober in Gdańsk - the first in 1736, the second in 1927. Chodowiecki, descended,on his father's side,from the Polish gentry from Gniezno, and on his mother's side,from French Huguenots, was the first of the familyto settle in Germany. The Grass family, in turn, has Kashubian-German roots. Childhoodsspent in Gdańsk influenced the identity of both artists. In their works we can find images of Gdańsk and the times in which they lived.

They have one more thing in common. Grass studied at the Berlin Academy of Künste at the Faculty of Sculpture, while Chodowiecki was the director of the Academy, at thattime known as Königlich-Preußische Akademie der Künste und mechanischen Wissenschaften. By reforming the university in 1783, Chodowiecki assigned to it the role of an assembly of artists who wouldshare their experiences, knowledge and feelings, and by learning from each other, wouldtry to get closer to perfection. 

Following the thoughts of Chodowiecki and Grass, preparations are underway for the creation of a new branch of the Gdańsk City Gallery - the House of Daniel Chodowiecki and Günter Grass, a space in which there will be regular meetings of people of culture, sharing their experiences and thoughts, learning from each other, transferring knowledge further and constantly creating this place anew.

TheHouse of Daniel Chodowiecki and Günter Grass will therefore be an international interdisciplinary cultural centre in which the presentation of thesefigures and the works of its patrons, as well as the history of the place itself, contribute to asking questions about local identity and the interaction between the urban space and the people living there. It will be a place of dialogue between what is old and what is modern, what is Gdansk, Polish and what is European, but also between what is local, domestic and what is far away, foreign. A place where artistic and cultural education activelytakes place on the basis of a clash of experiences of artists from various fields and nationalities. The House of Chodowiecki and Grass will,at the same time,be a place of artistic activity and cultural education, a place of debate on the role of art, as well as on how it is co-created - or can be co-created - by cultural institutions, artists and, of course, residents.

The fields of art with which they bound their lives,and the themes appearing in their art will become the basis of the institution's program. What will occupy aspecial place in the activity of the House of Chodowiecki and Grass areactivities focused on words and images, their mutual relations, changes that they undergo along with changes taking place in the surrounding world. The topic will concern both the process of creation andthefunctioning of printed materials in their physical form (graphic design, composition, printing techniques), as well as the impact on the recipient in the sphere of ideas, shaping attitudes and identity.

Above all, however, it will be a meeting place for various groups - a natural place for social integration and cultural education forcitizens, an arena of creative activities taking place in the Artists' Home with artists from Gdańskinvited to cooperate, and,at the same time,a new location on the tourist map of Gdańsk. Thanks to such a combination, the House of Chodowiecki and Grass will, on one hand, be an attractive space where artists can convene and carry out projects, and viewers can participate in workshops and cultural events, and on the other hand, a place where everyone inspires each other, shares experiences, co-creates, develops and touches both local and universal themes. Moreover, the House will, of course, present the works of both of its patrons as part of permanent exhibitions.

It is no coincidence that the place which will become the House of Chodowiecki and Grass, i.e. theformerOrphanage Complex (currently,two buildings at 6 and 8 Sieroca Street) is being prepared for renovation. The introduction of cultural activities to these buildings, which until recently have been used as residential buildings, will preserve an interesting example of the architecture of an 18th-century care facility. The investment will be implemented in two stages. In the first one, a major renovation of the existing buildings will be carried out, along with their adaptation to new functions, and the garden pavilion will be rebuilt as a reception. In the second one, the building of the former school will be reconstructed, and a monument to Chodowiecki will also be constructed, crowning the development of the institution. The opening of the House of Chodowiecki and Grass is planned for the the year 2022.