Wiktor Komorowski - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Wiktor Komorowski

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Wiktor Komorowski

Thesis: The Reversed Power of the Image – Exhibitions of Graphic Art in Eastern Europe during the Cold War

Supervised by: Dr Klara Kemp-Welch

Funded by:

  • CHASE/AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership
  • Morven and Michael Heller Scholarship
  • Joseph and Esther Lichtenstein Scholarship

The purpose of my research is to investigate the role artistic prints played in building cultural networks within and across Eastern European societies during the Cold War. It assesses the ways that post-war printmakers and curators of print exhibitions initiated an international cultural dialogue in countries suffering from political censorship. This study, therefore, will focus on exploring the printmaking strategies that stimulated the process of democratisation of societies that stayed under totalitarian rule. Censorship forced artists to work in closed circles of reciprocal artistic influence, while access to the international art world was rationed only to those in the good graces of the state.


Cultural isolation resulted in a common artistic aspiration to westernise and modernise art produced behind the curtain of censorship. In this respect, international exhibitions of prints were important events that significantly helped re-connect disjointed societies. In 1955, the Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana was initiated; in 1966, the Biennale of Graphic Art in Krakow was established; and in 1968, the Tallinn Print Triennial came to life. In addition, many minor initiatives such as the International Exhibition of Small-Sized Prints established in Lodz in 1979, were begun amid adverse political circumstances. Eastern European artistic prints were also regularly exhibited during the biggest international biennales such as Venice Biennale, Havana Biennale and São Paulo Biennale. The network of dedicated international art exhibitions became a window onto the world not only for printmakers, but also for all artists who were affected by censorship.


  • 2015-18 MPhil/PhD History of Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art
  • 2014-15 MA History of Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art
    • Countercultures: Alternative Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America 1959-1989
    • Dissertation: ‘Seriously Ironic: Eastern European Postmodern Irony and Latin American Modernist Pathos in the Conceptual Practice of Endre Tót And No-Grupo’
    • Supervisor: Dr Klara Kemp-Welch
  • 2010-14 BA Hons History of Art and Portuguese, The University of Manchester
    • Dissertation: ‘Grisaille and the Vanity of Seeing in Hieronymus Bosch’s Triptych of the Temptation of Saint Anthony’
    • (received The Adam Kay Prize for the best undergraduate dissertation in History of Art at the University of Manchester in 2013-14)
    • Supervisor: Dr Edward Wouk

Research Interests

  • Print culture
  • Print exhibitions
  • Biennalisation
  • Artistic networks
  • Media theory
  • Cold War politics


  • Wiktor Komorowski, ‘Biennials, Triennials, and Documenta: The Exhibitions that Created Contemporary Art Anthony Gardner and Charles Green 304pp, Wiley-Blackwell, 2016’, immediations, vol. 4 no. 1 (2016), 94-96.
  • Wiktor Komorowski, ed. Migrant’s Dream, 11th December-29th December 2016, POSK Gallery, London, exh. cat., (London, 2016).
  • Wiktor Komorowski, ‘Red Trauma: Aleksander Kobzdej’s Informel and the Challenge of Stalinist Past’, Brief Encounters, vol. 2 no. 1 (2018), 69-92.
  • Wiktor Komorowski, ‘What Has Kept the Tallinn Print Triennial on the Global Map of Graphic Art for 50 Years?’ in E. Taidre and E. Komissarov, (eds.), Puzzling Over the Labyrinth. 50 Years of the Tallinn Print Triennial, (Tallinn, 2018), 240-255.
  • Wiktor Komorowski, ‘From Inhuman Land to Safety: Artists of the Polish II Corps’, in Rachel Dickson (ed.), Art Out of the Bloodlands: A Century of Polish Artists in Britain, Ben Uri Gallery, exh. cat., (forthcoming, June 2019).
  • Wiktor Komorowski, ‘Hard Ground-Soft Politics: The Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana and Biting of the Iron Curtain’, Humanities 2018, 7(4), 97.
  • Wiktor Komorowski, ‘An Associative Art History Comparative Studies of Neo-avant-gardes in a Bipolar World, Tomáš Pospiszyl 293pp, JRP/Ringier, 2017’, immediations, vol. 5 no. 1 (2018), 96-99.
  • Wiktor Komorowski, ‘Transnational Cultural Space and Cold War Exhibitions of Graphic Art in Eastern Europe’, in H. Atkinson, V. Clarkson and S. Lichtman (eds.), Exhibitions and Transnational Exchange: Art and Design, Borders and Boundaries from 1945, (London: Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming, 2019)

Recent Conference Papers

  • ‘The Reversed Power of the Image’, 3rd International Forum for Doctoral Candidates in East European Art History, the Humboldt University of Berlin, April 29, 2016.
  • ‘The role of periodic exhibitions of artistic prints in building cultural networks within and across Eastern European societies during the Cold War’, International predoctoral seminar: Cold Atlantic. Cultural War, Dissident Artistic Practices, Networks and Contact Zones at the Time of the Iron Curtain, The University of Barcelona, September 8-9, 2016.
  • ‘Solving the Cold War False Dilemma: The Ljubljana Graphic Arts Biennial and the Emergence of the Cultural Middle Ground’, Socialist RRG, ‘Liberty, Egality, Fraternity’, The Department of Anthropology, UCL, September 15, 2016.
  • An Exhibition Worth a Thousand Words: Subliminal Curatorial Strategies at Ljubljana’s, Krakow’s and Tallinn’s Survey Shows of Graphic Art’, East -West Cultural Relations: Interplay of Arts and Cultural Diplomacy 1945-2017, University of Jyväskylä, February 24-25, 2017.
  • ‘Cooperation. Competition. Conflict?: Dreams of Agon and the Krakow’s International Graphic Art Biennial of 1966’, The Courtauld Second Year Modern and Contemporary PhD Symposium, The Courtauld Institute of Art, May 18, 2017.
  • The 29th Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana and the Challenges of PostSocialist Desert’, Revolutions in the Margins, 1917-2017, The Graduate Centre, City University of New York, October 13, 2017.
  • ‘Aleksander Kobzdej (1920-1972): From Socialist Realism to Informel’, CHASE Brief Encounters Launch Event, The Royal Institution, London, February 7, 2018.
  • ‘Establishing Transnational Matrix: Ljubljana Graphic Arts Biennial and the Success of Japanese Printmaking’, CAA Conference Seminar, The Courtauld Institute of Art, February 12, 2018.
  • ‘Establishing Transnational Matrix: Ljubljana Graphic Arts Biennial and the Success of Japanese Printmaking’, College of Arts Association Annual Conference, Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, February 22, 2018.
  • ‘Aesop’s voice in the Agon: Leszek Sobocki’s participation in the International Print Biennial in Krakow’, 3rd Year Postgraduate Symposium, The Courtauld Institute of Art, June 7, 2018.


  • Teaching Assistant, MA Core Methodologies, 2016/17, 2017/18

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