The former galleries: the Gallery of Decorative Arts and the Gallery of European and Polish Old Masters of the National Museum in Warsaw have been merged to form the new Gallery of Old Masters.
Bringing together diverse art forms, we intend to move away from the traditional discourse of art history where the “high” pictorial art — painting, sculpture, drawing and graphic arts were separated from decorative arts understood exclusively in utilitarian terms. Yet such division did not exist in the past. Generally speaking, all art forms were perceived as equal.
The representational character of painting and sculpture — subjected to the principle of the imitation of reality (mimesis) — was not a criterion of division either. As our exhibition demonstrates, the majority of examples of old artisanal handicraft, while undeniably decorative, also featured figurative depictions, which are the quintessence of painting and sculpture.
Decorative arts shared with painting and sculpture their purpose and functions, but also spaces where they were collected and exhibited. These “social spaces” have provided the key to the division of the gallery: 1. palace, villa, court; 2. church, chapel and domestic altar; 3. the city. In other words: 1. court culture; 2. religious culture; 3. city culture.