fot. Grzegorz Kwolek, JHI
The opening was attended by about 150 people, including representatives of the diplomatic corps, befriended organizations and institutions, the Jewish community and science, as well as journalists, friends, acquaintances and relatives of the creator of the exhibition, Zuzanna Benesz-Goldfinger, and other people involved in its creation. We also had the honour of hosting Izaak Celnikier's family, who came to Warsaw especially for this event.
The ceremony, led by the head of the Cultural Projects and Communication Department, Franciszek Bojańczyk, began with the speech of the director of the Jewish Historical Institute, Monika Krawczyk. She thanked all those gathered, as well as the partner and media patrons of the exhibition, the institutions that lent works for the exhibition, and, above all, its curator.
"Of course, many thanks to curator Zuzanna Benesz-Goldfinger, the head of our Art Department, for such steadfast work in getting to know and examining the work of Izaak Celnikier", said Monika Krawczyk. "This is an important and groundbreaking exhibition, the first to focus on Isaac Celnikier. It is worth emphasizing that most of the collection comes from the Jewish Historical Institute."
Zuzanna Benesz-Goldfinger began her speech by recalling a very significant fragment of Izaak Celnikier's unpublished autobiography entitled My Reading of Rembrandt:
“This is art and life. Art and death. I open my eyes, there’s no one. I try to fall asleep again, and those who are pushing me out return, their features are specific or almost specific, they overlap. My language is hesistating – it is the language of salvation's debtor.
The curator talked about the purpose of the exhibition, devoted primarily to works created by the artist before his leaving for Paris in 1957:
"The works that Celnikier left in Poland were dispersed. The aim of this exhibition and the publication that comes along was to connect all of those works and to recognise the true aim of their creation. It turned out that most of them were sketches for Yiddish stories and poems, that, thanks to the cooperation and support of wonderful Yiddishists, were translated, often for the first time, into Polish and English – and thanks to that we can read the real sense of the illustrations by Celnikier."
She also presented the compositional assumptions of the exhibition:
"It is no coincidence that at this exhibition two axes cross: the scenography one and the narrative one. One axis is designated by representations of war: a projection with two versions of the »Ghetto« painting is reflected in a painting entitled »Korea«. In the diagonal one, you can see hanging boards with post-war sketches and illustrations for Yiddish stories and poems. They're filled with sentiments of pacifism and antifascism. Whereas in the foyer, before you enter the exhibition, is where we present the pre-war and war biography of the artist through the presentation of his graphics combined with quotes from the autobiography of Isaac Celnikier."
We also had the pleasure of listening to Anne Szulmajster-Celnikier, who emphasized how important this exhibition is to the Celnikier family:
"I would like to express, in my name and in the name of Isaac's children, Jacob, Yoshua and Sarah, and in the name of one of his grand-children, Anandita, as well as of the entire family, my gratitude to the director of the Museum, and of course to the whole staff who worked hard for this marking event. My gratitude goes in particular to Mrs Zuzanna Benesz-Goldfinger who intensively collaborated with me twice in Paris. Her impulse, her deep and resolute research, associated with a warm personality, touched me very much."
We cordially invite you to visit the exhibition to see how important and touching it is. We invite you also to buy the catalogue of the exhibition which is available in our bookstore.