Nov. 27, 2020

Fangor's American Dream

It's hard to tell today, how Fangor's artistic career would look like has he not left Poland in the 1960s. The departure surely gave him international recognition and an exhibition in one of the most important contemporary art museums. 


At the same time Fangor's stay abroad put him out of the focus on the native art scene, which was retrieved to him only in the last years of his life. 


Having first stayed in Germany and Great Britain, Fangor inhabited the USA for 33 years. He came to the country through an invitation of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Washington in 1962. The moveout to the West was a great opportunity for him to get acquainted to the newest trends in art as well as to show his work on the international scene. In the meantime the painter came back to Europe, where he started collaborating with Galerie Chalette in Paris (that also had its offices in New York). Thanks to the owners of the gallery, the couple of Lejw, Fangor's work was presented on an individual exposition in 1969. It caused a great stir and a big press coverage.


1970 brought not only the next exposition of his work in this place. For the most important event of the artist's career, as well as the Polish art history, was the invitation that came from the temple of contemporary art in New York – the Salomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Muzeum Salomona Guggenheimw w Nowym Jorku, źródło: Wikimedia Commons


The Galerie Chalette owners contributed to the organization of the exhibition. Artur Lejw, apart from the event coordination, took care of the proper PR for the artist that later resulted in his big fame. Fangor used to stress the importance of the article published in the New York Times by John Canaday on 15 February 1970. The magazine's main art critic wrote: ‘he is the great romantic of op art, working not by rule but by a combination of intuition and experiment, appealing not to reason but to our yearning toward the mysterious.' The importance of Fangor's works presentation at the Guggenheim might be stressed by the fact that he was the only Polish artist to whom a solo exhibition was dedicated. 

‘M 22' is one of the works originally presented at the Galerie Challette and was directly acquired to a private collection in Texas. Most of the paintings shown at the Guggenheim were created in Fangor's Madison atelier. ‘M 22', together with the other 36 canvas were painted especially for this occasion.


Fangor's works, outstanding with their specific, geometric shape resembling a rosette or a flower, are one of the most effective and sought after. He created only three compositions of this kind: ‘M 19' (1968), ‘M 22' and ‘M 39' from 1969. They are a perfect example of realization of the idea of concentric, “edgeless' painting that has an infinite composition that moves. The work was made in the Madison studio, from which derives the title letter – M. Another distinguishing feature are its outstanding colours. The middle of the composition is marked by hypnotizing, neon green, framed by equally intensive ultramarine. The 2018 sale record might prove the uniqueness of the composition. Then similar in shape ‘M 39' was sold for 4 700 000 PLN becoming the most expensive painting on the Polish market to date.