The Art That (Not) Passes By Agnieszka Mastalerz × ERGO Hestia
In her art, Agnieszka Mastalerz uses media of expression which are associated with conceptual art; she uses photographs, videos, performance, and installations. She mostly deals with the topic of control mechanisms, she also strongly focuses on comprehensive social processes which have an impact on a unit. For ERGO Hestia she prepared the Annual Report for 2017.
An insurer which is a patron
Hestia Artistic Journey contest is the most crucial art-themed initiative of ERGO Hestia, which is unique in Poland. The competition was launched in 2002 in accordance with the idea of Piotr M. Śliwicki, President of ERGO Hestia Group, who has been actively popularizing the idea of arts patronage in the business environment. It is addressed to students in the fourth and fifth year at Polish artistic academia. The contest’s laureates hold artistic residencies in renowned art centers in New York, Valencia or Vilnius. It is not only an opportunity for them to present themselves to the Polish and global artistic community, but also the first experience of cooperation with business.
Since 2014, another special award has been awarded by President Piotr M. Śliwicki himself. The award is a possibility of cooperating on the project involving a visual concept of the Annual Report of ERGO Hestia Group on commercial terms. A financial report of a large corporation prepared by an artist? It turns out that not only it is possible, but it can also lead to marvelous effects, which sometimes even surprise both parties to this unusual cooperation.
In 2017, the Annual Report of the ERGO Hestia Group was prepared by Agnieszka Mastalerz.
Agnieszka in wonderland
As part of the project of the Annual Report, Mastalerz offered the employees of the insurance company an artistic experiment: on a given day, instead of clocking-in in the office, everyone – from the management board to security guards or cleaning service – was asked to write down their… dreams on a piece of paper and throw them into a special box. It could be a last night’s dream, but also a dream from many years back, which a given person could still remember well. What is the theory behind the idea? Taking a closer look at the company structure, Mastalerz decided to reach out to a place which is untouched by titles and positions: to the inner life and subconsciousness. A collection of anonymous dreams is a reflection of our sensibilities, emotions, and passions. An entire spectrum of values important to particular units, which in turn means values important to the entire organization, was revealed as a result of her performative action. An annual report of a corporation understood this way is not only a representation of financial results, but most importantly it reaches deep inside to the center of the company and allows people creating the company to take a look at themselves and treat the artist’s work as a mirror which reflects considerably more than just figures, tables, and charts. It is also an attempt to find a relation between dry indicators of financial data and the internal condition of the people responsible for their development.
(Un)common Ground, that is reunion
After such unconventional and horizon-expanding cooperation, the Hestia Artistic Journey Foundation acting on behalf of the insurance company based in Sopot, an initiator of the (Un)common Ground platform, decided to ask Agnieszka Mastalerz to cooperate with them once again.
Both the kick-off meeting to launch the portal and the international conference under the same title, which is planned for June 2021, are held in the same place: the Raffles Europejski Warsaw hotel. It is a building with a special history – it was erected in 1855 as designed by Henryk Marconi and became the first modern hotel in the capital city of Poland. The luxurious Europejski Hotel quickly became a symbol of extravagance and the lifestyle of the aristocratic elite of the pre-war Warsaw. It was there where the first headquarters of the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts or the famous Lourse confectionery were located. The hotel was also depicted in “The Doll” by Bolesław Prus as a venue for the exquisite banquet organized by Wokulski.
The history of the Europejski Hotel inspired Agnieszka Mastalerz to juxtapose the tradition with the modern conceptual art, but also creations of nature with cultural heritage. Her project evolves around White Marianna. Who is she? It is not a ghost of a noble lady haunting hotel rooms, but the name of a marble type – the most precious one which has ever been discovered in Poland. The material, named after Marianna Orańska, one of the most extraordinary figures of the 19th century, was a reason to be proud: its decorative value is even compared with Carrara marble which was used by Michelangelo himself. White Marianna was used to create the stone interior in many buildings of state authorities, theaters, hotels, or cinemas. It was used to decorate the interiors of representative buildings in Warsaw, i.e. the Sejm, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Teatr Wielki, or the Central Railway Station. It could not be omitted in the interiors of the prestigious Europejski Hotel.
Nowadays, Polish marble is no longer mined, and the history of its former glory is forgotten. The lack of material makes it impossible to fully recreate the historic interiors; for this reason, the renovation works failed to recreate the famous marble floor of the Hotel Europejski. Agnieszka Mastalerz, inspired by the history of the building and the memory of the place, decided to recall a history that passes.
The project by Agnieszka Mastalerz has led to the creation of 30 unique minimalist photographs; each of them shows a different fragment of the White Marianna. Marble is uncut, imperfect – it contradicts the elitism and exclusivity associated with this material. Photography is a medium which makes it possible to freeze evanescent moments of life in time. The pictures of the fragments of White Marianna, which the artist took in quarries in Lower Silesia, are very frugal and conceptual from a formal perspective, however, they accumulate the power and memories of many generations. By focusing on details in her work, Mastalerz shows the essence and meaning of all components of the larger picture. Taking a closer look at the incredibly esthetic lumps of rock created by nature and constituting cultural heritage of Poland, the artists tells a story of building bridges – between “yesterday” and “today”, between nature and culture, and finally, between the world of art and the world of business.
Next year, Sopockie Towarzystwo Ubezpieczeń ERGO Hestia will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary on the market. For all this time, it has presented itself not only as a leading insurance company, but also as a patron of the arts in the fullest meaning of this word. The company is inter alia a strategic partner of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, the most important public institution exhibiting modern art; for seven years, the company has also been a partner of an annual event entitled “Warsaw Gallery Weekend”, it also cooperates with the iconic “Paszporty Polityki” (“Polityka’s Passports”) award by sponsoring an award in the category of visual arts.
As part of the (Un)common Ground, ERGO Hestia shares its experience in the field of art branding projects, showing that the relationship between art and business is extremely necessary – and possible to achieve. We encourage both the world of business and art to look for inspiration.
“Art That (Not) Passes By” is another art branding project of the insurer, through which we want, together with the artist, inspire you to look carefully at the world around us. In the daily struggles, we often do not notice or skip important issues – and art teaches us sensitivity, as well as helps develops our personality and empathy.