After discussing their new project with them I can hardly imagine Basia Lewandowska and Wojtek Skorupski would use the term “art gallery” to describe the place they managed to put together in just a couple of weeks last May. The name of their Kazimierz atelier comes from the term used to qualify the secret collection of erotic finds from Pompeii (displayed only to adult male visitors) in an isolated section of the Naples Archaeological Museum.
But please put a brake on your silly thoughts, the Secret Cabinet (ul. Joselewicza 2) has nothing in common with your favourite sex shop (although the mysterious pole in the centre of the room has certainly seen dancing of the dirty kind in the past).
“Our shows are conceived to last no more than seven days,” says Basia, explaining that all these short exhibitions culminate on Sundays with a brief auction of the works displayed during the previous week. “I can manage to work once a week as a Polish and English-speaking art auctioneer,” adds Wojtek in an uncomprimising tone.
I eventually understand that their short show concept is just part of a wider plan aimed at proposing informal exhibitions without the tedious, self-consciously sophisticated formality often seen at mainstream art events. “Why are inaugurations almost always boring as hell?”, Wojtek asks himself, pointing out that Secret Cabinet openings are strictly followed by all-night after-parties.
Apart from the ambition of becoming an established coffeehouse in Kazimierz offering interesting blends of beans and absinthe, the Secret Cabinet puts on various workshops devoted to ceramics, sculpture and weaving. The courses, open all year round, are conducted by Basia and Wojtek along with the renowned ceramics artist Stanisław Moskała, the sculptor Krzysztof Krzysztof and Teresa Postrzednik for the weaving.
The Secret Cabinet also provides a glimpse into the works and original technique of Basia as a mosaicist. Using two-time burnt tesserae cut in slices off the clay and then covered with glaze, she is able to create original mosaics in gaudy colours permeated by her own symbolism as well as ceramic-made reproductions of famous paintings including works of Van Gogh and Klimt.
“This is a good place to experiment with new things in a friendly atmosphere,” explains the Russian painter Lena Efremova while modelling a blob of clay in the palm of her hand. “If you don’t feel like attending our workshops you can always use our equipment and just pay the cost for the raw materials,” reveals Basia. “We give participants an understanding of the techniques using a ‘learn by doing’ approach,” adds Wojtek, showing me a ceramic card inspired by a pre-Columbian visual pattern made by one of their students.
I’m glancing at an enigmatic human-shaped sculpture covered by cloth when Wojtek unveils his plan to prepare a provocative street performance to be held in Krakow at the beginning of October. “We already have an attorney ready to take up our case,” he says discreetly, fixing me with a conspiratorial smile.