Aneta Szyłak


Date and place of birth: 1959, Puck, Poland

Living place: Gdansk, Poland

Theme: art criticism

ECC Participation: panel member

photo: Michał Szlaga

Aneta Szyłak is an art curator and the president of the Wyspa Progress Foundation. She co-founded the Łaźnia Centre for Contemporary Art in Gdańsk, which she directed until 2001. Since 2004, she has been the head of the Wyspa Institute of Art, located on the grounds of what was once the Gdańsk Shipyard. She is an advocate for art that is involved in the social and political problems of today’s world. During her time as director of the Łaźnia CCA, Szyłak garnered respect from artistic circles and earned enemies among the Tri-City’s conservative aldermen with her bold curatorial decisions.

“Controversy is nothing more than a difference in views, which is a natural part of every democracy – a constant dispute about the future and the past.”

Szyłak graduated from the University of Gdańsk with a degree in Polish. She received scholarships from several institutions, including the Kościuszko Foundation and the British Council. She has held art exhibitions in several cities around the world, including New York, Dresden, and London. During her term at the Łaźnia, the center hosted such famous exhibitions as Grzegorz Klaman’s “Anatrophy” and “Public Relations,” Katarzyna Kozyra’s “Works,” and the group exhibition “All You Need is Love,” as well as projects such as “The Wiktoria Cukt Campaign” (featuring a virtual candidate for president) and “Roads to Freedom”, a presentation on the post-war history of Poland and the Solidarity movement. Szyłak was ultimately forced to resign from her position as director of the Łaźnia CCA after local officials protested against the exhibitions being hosted at the center.

Szyłak is currently the director of the Wyspa Institute of Art, Poland’s first large contemporary art institute to be independent of government funding. Wyspa is an interdisciplinary institution which conducts artist-in-residence programs, holds the international Alternativa festival, and has its own collection, publications, and reading rooms. An ongoing project at Wyspa is the urban renewal of the areas surrounding the institute. It explores the shipyard grounds as a place of memory, holding an annual summer project called the “Subjective Bus Line.” Szyłak’s independent stance earned her the title of “Duży Format” magazine’s 2006 person of the year, awarded by the readers of the Polish daily “Gazeta Wyborcza.”

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