Merry Christmas (Frohefest)

The first presentation of the ‘Merry Christmas’ exhibition took place in December 2005 at the Arsenal Gallery. Eight years later, we were requested by the Polish Institute in Düsseldorf to prepare an exhibition devoted to the same topic one more time. Together with artists we once again reflect upon what Christmas actually means for us.

Art, which has for centuries been closely related to religion, nowadays does not always find middle ground with it. Polish contemporary art comments upon Poles’ religiousness in a critical manner, keeping certain distance to this issue. The very topic of Christmas has been trivialised – having been explored by the history of art a long time ago, has now entered the commercial realm, because of which it is more and more difficult not to put it in a nice and shiny consumerist  packaging. 

Together with the Polish Institute we invited four Polish artists to share their emotions related to Christmas during the holiday season. Three of them do not identify Christmas with religion, but with family, warmth, and friendships, with good deeds, finding agreement, and dialogue between cultures. By showing the sentimental Christmas stereotype, they expose it and accustom the audience to it. 

Dorota Podlaska spent a couple of months this year in Dusseldorf as a Hoherwerg Ateliers scholarship holder. She sees Dusseldorf as a city of many emigrants. For the exhibition she decided to prepare a series of drawings telling the story of how non-Christian inhabitants of the city spend their Christmas. Do they stay home doing nothing, do they meet with their German friends, or do they organise some leisure outside the city? In order to answer the above questions, the artist talked to many individuals. She looked for holidays resembling Christmas celebrated in other cultures. During the exhibition we present drawings that resemble fairytale illustrations or the ‘Christmas Carol’ to some extent. One of them tells the story of Hiroko and Sohei, a couple from Japan that has been living in Dusseldorf since nineteen seventies. On Christmas day they sit at home, enjoying peace and quietness of that moment. But they celebrate the New Year’s Day the way we celebrate Christmas – they do it for three days, starting from a festive dinner with the family, then they visit their neighbours, and on the third day they meet with their friends. Traditional food served on that occasion includes omochi rice cakes prepared in a special machine brought all the way from Japan. (….)

Magdalena Godlewska-Siwerska, 2013