The Polish Jews Return through Venice
In the 1920s, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs founded a Committee for the Promotion of Polish Art Abroad, which aimed at acquiring a building in the area of Giardini. Previously, the city of Venice had offered Poland the opportunity to purchase the German Pavilion as post-war Germany was heavily in debt and Poland could have paid off the remaining payments. However, the Committee ultimately turned down the offer.
In 1931, the city authorities constructed an additional building for the Biennale and expanded the gardens onto the Island of Saint Helen, across a small canal from the existing Giardini. Designed by the Italian architect, Brenno Del Giudice, the new structure would host the pavilions of Poland, Romania, Egypt, and Yugoslavia, as well as the Pavilion of Venice. The costs of the construction for the section dedicated to Poland were estimated at 200,000 lira. In the rear of the Polish Pavilion, the emergency exit opens directly out to the street to the less traveled eastern part of Venice and might serve as a secret passage into the Biennale.
Since 1999, the exhibitions have been chosen through a competition organized by the National Gallery of Art – Zacheta. In 2011, an Israeli artist, Yael Bartana, was the first non-Polish artist to be presented in the pavilion. Her project, The Jewish Renaissance Movement to Poland, called for a return of 3 million Jews to Poland, thus furthering the debate about reconciliation between Poles and Jews. Has her contribution allowed the Polish Pavilion – crowned by the large title “Polonia” – to be understood as a shelter for a diasporic exile?Sebastian Cichocki and Joanna Warsza