From the Exhibition Pavilion of the Association of Polish Visual Artists, erected in 1960, through the Bureau of Art Exhibitions and the extension of the building in 1989, to an independent BWA from 1975 and the municipal art gallery (from 1994) – highly regarded for promoting contemporary art and organizing the Biennale Painting Bielska Jesień.
Galeria Bielska BWA is a municipal art gallery maintained from the budget of the municipality of Bielsko-Biała. The gallery building was erected in 1960 on the initiative of the local artistic community, and named the Exhibition Pavilion of the Polish Artists Association (the opening ceremony took place on 10 February, 1960).
The Pavilion was built on the site of a synagogue burnt in 1939. This paved the way for commercialization, but in a way, the spiritual character of the place was restored through art. The Pavilion housed a two-hundred-square-metre hall which was used for exhibitions, meetings and film screenings, as well as for an art café.
The Pavilion, which soon became a centre of artistic life in the city and region, was the first such place in what was then the Province of Katowice. For the first 10 years, it provided space for exhibitions organized by the local branch of the Polish Artists’ Association; between1970 and1974, the Pavilion housed a department of the Art Exhibitions Bureau in Katowice, and in 1975, which marked the establishment of the Province of Bielsko-Biała, it became an independent institution (by virtue of the Resolution of the Governor of Bielsko-Biała of 1 November, 1975). The one-storey pavilion was expanded in 1989 and received a new large upper hall and a café, as well as a number of storerooms and offices. Currently, the gallery has two exhibition halls with an area of 150 and 250 square metres, an audiovisual room and a café on the first floor with an area of 91.61 square metres. Since 2014, the gallery has been leasing out Café Club Aquarium which is run by the Cultural Foundation “Kaleidoscope”.
The present name Galeria Bielska BWA was adopted in 1994 after the takeover of the institution by the local government of Bielsko-Biała. Pursuant to a statute dating back to the communist era, the primary tasks of the gallery aim at the dissemination of contemporary art and include exhibiting, educational, and informative activities.
Since the 1990s, the activities of Galeria Bielska BWA have been based on promoting major developments in contemporary art. One of its most fundamental areas is the promotion of painting as a timeless and universal value, regardless of falling popularity in the face of modern technologies.
In 2010, the gallery celebrated its 50th anniversary. The jubilee involved two exhibitions. The first one, called Autumn Exhibition, was put together by Robert Kuśmirowski, who turned the entire ground-floor hall into an exhibition room from the 1960s with characteristic decor, cafeteria equipment, props and artworks from that period. The artist drew his inspiration from a 1962 photograph showing an exhibition of artwork by Ferdynand Szypuła in the Pavilion. The new project was not a faithful reproduction of the gallery interior, but it reflected the atmosphere of the ‘60s. The second exhibition entitled 50 Paintings was curated by the gallery director Agata Smalcerz. It presented fifty most interesting works from the Art Collection of Galeria Bielska BWA.
Galeria Bielska BWA is the beneficiary of the project entitled Revitalization of Theodor Sixt’s Villa in Bielsko-Biała which was implemented under the Regional Operational Program of the Province of Silesia for the years 2014-2020 / Priority Axis X Revitalization and Social and Health Infrastructure.
Located near the gallery building, at ul. A. Mickiewicza 24, the historic villa is owned by the Municipality of Bielsko-Biała, while Galeria Bielska BWA is the owner of the facility based on the loan agreement of 24 February 2016. Social activities in the historic building will be conducted primarily by the Municipal Social Aid Centre in Bielsko-Biała; whereas cultural and artistic events will be run by Galeria Bielska.The gallery plans to exhibit its collection of contemporary art in the rooms of the villa.
1960–1970: Exhibition Pavilion of the Polish Artists Association , branch in Bielsko-Biała
1970–1974: Department of the Art Exhibitions Bureau in Katowice
1975–1994: Art Exhibitions Bureau
od 1994: Galeria Bielska BWA
Independent gallery directors:
Art Exhibitions Bureau:
Alexander Andrzej Łabiniec (1930–2010) – director: 1 January1976–1981
Helena Dobranowicz – acting director: 1. July,1981–31 July,1982
Ryszard Kaczmarek (1938–2011) – director: 1 August, 1982–31 September, 1991
Helena Dobranowicz – director: 1 November,1991–31 May,1993
Galeria Bielska BWA:
Zbigniew Michniowski – director: 1 August,1993 – 31 August,1994
Agata Smalcerz – acting director: 7 July – 7 October, 1994
Małgorzata Kubica-Bilska – director: 8 October, 1994 – 31 May, 2003
Agata Smalcerz – acting director: 1 June, 2003 – 31 December, 2003;
director since 1 January, 2004 ( employed in Galeria Bielska BWA since 7 July,1992)