In Memoriam Piotr Piotrowski (1952–2015)

Photo: David Campos
Photo: David Campos

Piotr Piotrowski 1952–2015

It is with profound sadness that the Igor Zabel Association and the ERSTE Foundation share the information that Piotr Piotrowski, Polish art historian and recipient of the Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory 2010, passed away.

For ERSTE Foundation, Piotr Piotrowski was an advisor from the very beginning, belonging to those persons who strongly shaped the Programme Culture. We had long meetings and brain storming sessions with him on how we should commemorate the anniversary of 20 years “Fall of the Iron Curtain”. He was a driving force behind the large research project and exhibition “Gender Check. Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe”.

He was always dreaming of an Institute of Central and Eastern European Visual Culture. By co-designing ERSTE Foundation’s PATTERNS Travelling Lectures, a transnational, mobile series of art history lectures, he was able to realize at least parts of it. The title “Writing Central European Art History” showed his inspiring influence and Piotr Piotrowski himself contributed the lecture “Towards a Horizontal Art History”.

With his concepts of horizontal and global art history writing he contributed significantly to a internalisation of East European Art. For his scholarly achievements he received the Jan Dlugosz Award Krakow in 2006 and the Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory in 2010, the latter “for his art history writing in Eastern Europe, which is hardly visible in the canonised, so-called universal art history.” “His main goal”, stated the jury, “was to subvert the traditional geography of art that functions as a tool of subordination, and to offer the marginal position as an analytic advantage based on his conviction that ‘the margin can reveal elements that are invisible from the centre’”.

Piotr Piotrowski was a cultural ambassador for the art of Central and Eastern Europe. His significant body of writings focuses on transnational modern and contemporary art, the books In the Shadow of Yalta. Art and the Avant-garde in Eastern Europe, 1945-1989 (London: Reaktion Books, 2009) and Art and Democracy in Post-Communist Europe (London: Reaktion Books, 2012) are key-works of - not only CEE - art history.

Although he was once heading the National Museum in Warsaw from 2009 until 2010, his focus was clearly scientific. He was very much aware of the indispensable need of theory in the field of art history. Having been a brilliant researcher and a passionate teacher for his students alike, this outstanding art historian had his home base as Professor ordinarius at the Art History Department of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, which he has been chairing between 1999 and 2008. He was also permanent research fellow of the Graduate School for East and South-East European Studies, a programme of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, and Regensburg University.

Our sincere condolences to his family and beloved.
Vienna/Ljubljana 5 May 2015

ERSTE Foundation
Maria Derntl
Christiane Erharter
Mira Holeckova
Maribel Königer
Anna Nöst
Franz Karl Prüller
Heide Wihrheim

Igor Zabel Association
Urska Jurman
Matej Kos Zabel
Vid Zabel
Christine Böhler
Josef Dabernig
Boris Marte
Bojan Zabel