b. 1974, Poland

Marcin Maciejowski Biography

Polish artist Marcin Maciejowski is renowned for his humorous and candid observations of the everyday life. Painting from commercials, television series, newspapers, the internet, art history and his own experiences, Maciejowski is a keeper of our contemporary conditions.

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Maciejowski's formative years as a painter were spent associated with the Ładnie Group, a collective of five artists active in Krakow between 1996 and 2001. In 1994, he enrolled in the Studies of Architecture at Krakow University of Technology, where he befriended classmates Rafał Bujnowski and Wilhelm Sasnal—both of whom are now, like Maciejowski, among the most recognised Polish artists of their generation—in drawing classes taught by Marek Firek. When Maciejowski, Bujnowski and Sasnal transferred to Krakow's Academy of Fine Arts in 1996, they formed the Ładnie Group with Marek Firek and Józef Tomczyk 'Kurosawa' (Józef was a model for the University's drawing classes). The five painters rejected the myth of the modernist artist-genius and interrogated the power of art to change the world. Usually taking place in the Krakow club scene, the Group's collaborative events included painting exhibitions, film screenings, musical performances and the distribution of self-published zines featuring its members' artworks. Their paintings—which often adopted the style of commercial advertising and derived inspiration from the everyday and the mass media—came to be described by the critics as pop-banalism.

The pop-banalist aesthetic of Maciejowski's early years has continued throughout the rest of his career. Although his choices of reference images are intuitive, he is drawn to prosaic material that gains narrative significance when rendered in paint. In the early stages of his practice, Maciejowski painted from observation; now he paints from projected images, which allows his final works to become more faithful to their original references. However, he does not attempt to create photorealistic reproductions—he leaves visible and evocative brushstrokes to activate the viewer's imagination.

Among the most well-known of his works from the 1990s and early 2000s are paintings of football hooligans, inspired by the intense rivalry between supporters of Krakow's Wisła and Cracovia teams. For instance, the painting Misiek, Kibic Wisły Kraków (Kraków Wisła supporter) (2004) portrays a young man named Paweł Michalski, who became famous for throwing a knife at Italian footballer Dino Baggio during a match in 1998. Despite the incident—which resulted in a ban on Wisła from participating in international matches for several years—Misiek was idolised among fans. In his artwork, Maciejowski painted Misiek's portrait above the football field in a commemorative fashion, as if the man were a celebrated football player rather than hooligan, highlighting the way the media popularise violence. By contrast, Unsettled Matters (2014) is a painting based on a photograph of the artist drinking with his best friend's wife on New Year's Eve. Although the two of them had not been friendly, they were able to share their differing views that night and make an effort to address unsettled matters. The moments of conflict, struggle and loss in Maciejowski's recent paintings are deeply personal, yet they are the kind of experiences that are common to many.

Maciejowski's more recent paintings also display a preoccupation with the history of art and his own output. Can't you be more radical? (2013), for instance, shows a woman seated on a red sofa with a red box beside her that reads, 'Can't you be more radical? Paint something abstract, like patterns', offering a cynical critique of the artist's own paintings. In Bust of a Woman (1944) (2014), on the other hand, a gallery visitor takes a picture of the eponymous Picasso painting with her smartphone—a gesture that echoes Maciejowski's appropriation of the original painting. While Bust of a Woman pays tribute to one of the Maciejowski's favourite artists, it also brings attention to the contemporary significance of digital photography that mediates much of our encounters.

Maciejowski has been exhibiting internationally since the early 2000s. In addition to holding multiple exhibitions at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Salzburg and Paris; Wilkinson Gallery, London; and Galerie Meyer Kainer, Vienna, his work has also featured in Galeria Bielska BWA, Bielsko-Biała (2012); National Museum in Krakow (2010); Galerie Leo König, New York (2005); Art Basel (2004); and Frieze London (2003) among others. Maciejowski lives and works in Krakow.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018

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