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Right-wing director of Warsaw contemporary art centre ousted by culture minister

Almost five years after taking the helm of Warsaw’s preeminent contemporary art institution, the Ujazdowski Castle (CCA), Piotr Bernatowicz has been removed from his post by the Polish minister of culture, Hanna Wróblewska.

The interim director has been named as Kamila Bondar, who has served as the president of the ING Polish Art Foundation and curator of its collection since 2015.

According to the minister, Bernatowicz was dismissed on 24 June “due to irregularities” of “public finances”. The minister also emphasised the CCA’s “disappearing identity […] once a laboratory for artists with different sensitivities from various areas and fields, serving all of us, and today a place for the self-presentation of one person’s views.”

In a statement posted on the ministry’s website, a public call will now take place to find a permanent director. “One of the tasks the new director will face will be to start conversations about the future of the institution with a broadly represented artistic community.”

The move comes on the heels of several controversial exhibitions and projects promoted under Bernatowicz’s stewardship, including a collateral exhibition during the Venice Biennale featuring the artist Ignacy Czwartos, whose Polish pavilion was canceled and replaced by the culture minister.

According to Marianna Dobkowska, a curator at the Re-Directing East programme at the museum, who has been with the CCA for over a decade, the “news brings long-awaited relief and brings new hope for much-needed changes at the institution.”

Dobkowska tells The Art Newspaper: “The artistic community deserves a castle managed wisely by competent people. The past 4.5 years have been a very dark period for both staff and the artistic community. Many great people have left the team, I am one of the few who survived this period and it is a joyful day for us.”

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