Maria Pinińska-Bereś, early 70., photo from the family archive

Maria Lya Pinińska was born on August 17, 1931 in Poznań. Her father Piotr Piniński came from an aristocratic family and was a cavalry captain. Her mother Lya Heincel was the only child in the family of a wealthy civil engineer. Until the outbreak of World War II, Maria lived in Poznań surrounded by servants and governesses, isolated from the outside world. The scarce surviving photographs from 1930 -1939 would be later signed by her “Mimi 5 years old, still a beautiful world”, “Mimi 7 years old, still beautiful times”



Her father is transferred to Grudziądz at the outbreak of the war. After the invasion of the Soviet troops he gets arrested. Maria and her entire family – grandfather, grandmother, mother, two younger brothers, one of whom was born during the war – escape from Poznan, thus avoiding being arrested by the Germans. They now live in Krakow and in Swoszowice near Krakow.

She will write about his father half a century later: We loved each other very much, but it did not last long. In 1939 he became a prisoner of a war camp in Russia, and in 1940 was murdered by the NKVD with other officers. I waited and searched for him all my life. I didn’t learn the truth about his death until 1990 when a book about the places where the Polish officers were executed came out. I found his name on the list of the Kharkov prisoners. For three days I cried and lamented over him, over myself and over my brother, who had never seen his father being born in November 1939.

Later I had to keep silent about my father in order to get into college. I was questioned very thoroughly about him by Polewka who allowed himself to go onto a mockery path. Only when I made a scene he restrained himself from doing it.

My father was a great horse rider and hippie athlete. In addition, he went into battle from the age of 16. Young border landers were joining liberation organizations at an early age. He received many orders and decorations from previous campaigns,including the “Virtuti Militari” and the “Children of Lviv” medal. He was my love and a legend. When I was a little girl, he would tell me stories and immediately draw them; he was talented artistically, like many Pinińskis, who unfortunately died young. His brother Mikołaj was murdered by the Germans at Majdanek concentration camp in Lublin. He was a very talented artist and I loved him. The war deprived me of my childhood fascinations

(“Father” manuscript, Fall 1998)


At the end of 1944, her family moves to Katowice. She is fourteen years old. In mid-April 1945, under odd circumstances, she is arrested along with her mother and younger brother and imprisoned in the concentration camp of Świętochłowice-Zgoda. She gets interrogated about her father and family. She falls ill with typhus. The mortality rate in the camp is extremely high. After several months, as a result of her family’s feverish efforts, she is released. She will never be inclined to talk about those days, but it is clear that the nightmares associated with that experience haunted her throughout her whole life. Half a century later, Salomon Morel, the commandant of the Swietochłowice-Zgoda camp, will be charged with the crime of genocide.

After the end of the German occupation, as a result of the political and military support of the Soviet Union, the communists come to power in Poland, which means the loss of country’s sovereignty. They introduce a totalitarian system based on a monoparty and secret police. For the first post-war years, they ruthlessly blast all manifestations of resistance. In Europe, the so-called “Iron Curtain” falls, separating free and democratic countries from totalitarian countries subordinated to Moscow. The “Iron Curtain” covers all spheres of life, including culture.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, probably early 1950s, photo from the family archive

She lives with her family in Katowice and attends art college. Her recollections of that period:

(…) I happen to grow up in peculiar circumstances, in an ultra-Catholic family, the head of which, due to war deaths, was a patriarchal senior, formed by the 19th century ideas. I was not being spared of woman’s fate with its all characteristics, which feminists later fought against. In particular, the combination of religion and gender phobias was an electrifying mixture. To save myself I had to revolt. Art appeared to me a free domain, free from conventions, compulsions, a sphere of creative, unfalsified projection of personality.

(“Corsets and Towers,” manuscript, 1994).




She studies sculpture at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts in the studio of Xawery Dunikowski. Dunikowski is an outstanding sculptor. His works of the early 20th c. are ranked among the most spectacular phenomena in European sculpture. For many years the artist lived and worked in Paris.  He was a prisoner of the German concentration camp Auschwitz for five years. After the war, he accepts the honors from the communist regime and allows them to exploit his authority. However, he still maintains his artistic independence.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś in the studio with Professor X. Dunikowski (Maria is wearing a black jersey), photo by J. Bereś

After many years Maria would write:

I had a very positive relationship with the Professor. The time of working under his supervision was full of happiness. Dunikowski demanded authenticity from us, he did not tolerate imitation, especially of his style.  He conveyed to me understanding that art is the ultimate value. I think I owe to him my concern with form. He was a man who cherished humor, and although he was sculpted big monuments, he detested pathos. Maybe thanks to my contacts with the Professor a certain distance is featured in my works, attentiveness to paradox and a touch of irony. He made me appreciate the “taste” of art and put me on the difficult path leading towards my own expression. Dunikowski was a “professional” sculptor who was receiving numerous commissions. In no time at all I realized that I belonged to another epoch and formation.

(from an introduction to the exhibition catalog at the Studio Gallery in Warsaw, 1997)

1950-1954 are the years of Stalinist terror in Poland which also affected culture. The obligatory style in art is socialist realism, decreed by the authorities. However, Dunikowski’s position allows him to protect his students from ideological indoctrination.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Girl with a Dove/ Dziewczynka z gołąbkiem, 1955, photo from the family archive

In 1955, her student works are created: Girl with a Dove/Dziewczynka z gołąbkiem, Bust of an Old Woman/Popiersie starej kobiety, Mother/Matka. Bust of an Old Woman is exhibited at the Arsenal Gallery in Warsaw. The organizers change the title of the sculpture to “Head of a Worker.”  The exhibition at the Arsenal Gallery is a manifestation of the departure from Socialist Realism. In the same year, she wins the 3rd prize at the International Sculpture Competition at the Zachęta National Gallery for her work Mother. She recalls:

It was a shock for me: my sculpture in the middle of “Zachęta” and this award. The work was appealing, but it got destroyed. I didn’t have a studio until 1980 and a number of my works in plaster from the early period did not survive.

(notes, manuscript, 1990)

In 1956, she receives an honorary diploma from X. Dunikowski. Since the professor is no longer in Krakow, the diploma is not formally recognized. Additional examinations before other professors in Krakow are required.


On April 28, she marries Jerzy Bereś, the sculptor.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś after marrying Jerzy Bereś, Katowice, 1957

Ruler/Władca a plaster cast (lost) gets created.  Thirty years later King and Queen/Król i Królowa will take on the same problem. Pink colour is featured for the first time in the sculpture Birth (Pink) / Narodziny (różowe). Łucja of 1964 will also be pink. The artist recalls:

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Birth (Pink)/Narodziny (różowe), 1956/57, from the family archive (Nationa Museum in Kraków)

Birth (Pink) was purchased by the National Museum and is still there, except that around 1980 I was notified that Prof. Puget was commissioned to reconstruct the shattered Birth which worried me a lot because he worked with a different form, rather post-impressionistic and I don’t know how he could repair this work which was built as a full, often even cracked form; unless some good student helped him; I know his way of working. And I was in Krakow at the time, but you can see he needed money. This work is constructed around a vertical-leg, the second leg arches to connect with the first, structural – the arch of the thigh circles around the first, the head like a ball tilts back from the vertical, the breasts like ripe fruit, full and swollen. I consider this work to be formally well done. I painted it pink, an intense color. At the Art Palace exhibition, it attracted widespread attention. The hands rise up and hold something like an arrow-child. The arrow is a triangle with a head attached, and the baby’s feet are carved on the bottom of the triangle. I think the gender was marked. The work was attractive in its initial form. From a distance it was clear and visible. It is a pity that it was damaged and I do not know the outcome of the repair. It was one of my earliest works on form. At that time, form was very important to me. Color was secondary.

(Hospital Notes, manuscript, 1998)


In May, the first major show at the Artists’ House in Krakow. Critic Piotr Skrzynecki writes:

There have been group exhibitions at the Artists’ House on Łobzowska recently. After the sensational, by our standards, “Domino”, this time you can admire a no less interesting group, without a name though. This group also consists of three people. They are: Maria Pinińska, Jerzy Bereś, Tadeusz Szpunar. The work of this group is characterized by great individuality and originality, which is, as you know, quite a unique phenomenon. (…) The three exhibiting sculptors are Dunikowski’s students. They recently graduated from the Academy. (…) They have many different often contradictory concepts, not always made clear. Despite this, it seems that they are the most talented sculptural group, if not on a national scale, then certainly in the Krakow  (…) Ruler – a monumental sculpture, extremely expressive. The solid, growing upwards, thrives with heavy, as if barely chiseled forms, the multiplicity of forms of the upper part is contrasted and balanced by the base, consisting of a part of the “body” of the whole solid and the space defined by the arched tubes coming as if somewhere from the depths of the solid. A sculpture-monument. It leaves a great impression…

(“Pinińska – Bereś – Szpunar,” Echo of Krakow, May 1958)

On July 27, her daughter Bettina, is born….


King/Król (destroyed), King and a Pawn/Król i pionek, Three Forms/Trzy formy are realized.

The years 1957-1960 are a transitional period, difficult for the young family. Maria and Jerzy have neither a place to live nor to work. They spend the summer months in Cracow in an unfinished house built by her grandfather; the winter months in Katowice with her family. At the end of 1960, they receive their dream assignment for a one-room apartment with a studio located on the outskirts of Krakow.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Rotunda with Votive Offerings/Rotunda z wotami, 1961, photo from family archives

The rejection of statuary nature of sculpture. The artist realizes The Rotunda with Votives Offerings/Rotunda z wotami, the first one in the cycle; quilted fabric is featured as a sculptural element. The rotunda has a closed form, quite different from the very popular style pioneered by Henry Moore in those years. The artist recalls:

I turned to architectural forms as I aimed to eliminate the statuary nature of sculpture. The result were soft, monumental Rotundas, cast in cement and placed on quilted derricks.

(“Notebook from Busko,” manuscript 1997)



Together with Jerzy Bereś, she initiates the “Sculpture of the Year” exhibition. She will participate in these exhibitions until 1980. During those years “Sculpture of the Year” constituted an annual opportunity to show the latest works. She recalls that period:

We had graduated a few years back then. Most of the older sculptors practiced sculpture more as a craft than as an art. It was a largely artisana circle. In a small enclave at the Academy Puget and Bandura continued the tradition of 19th-century sculpture. The Krakow Group kept separate. Dunikowski was no longer in Krakow. In fact, he did not make much of an impact. He was even criticized for not being able to create a school. But he was probably aware that continuing his path made no sense. When he noticed that a student was beginning to imitate him, he reproved him in a pinch: “I don’t recall making such a sculpture.”

The mature generation struggled with crafts. Depending on the patron, these were either sculptures for churches or cemeteries, or monuments perpetuating communist reality. (…) There was even a saying: a sculptor is strong and stupid. At meetings of the sculpture section the sculptors constantly talked about plaster, about clay, about packets. And little about medals, very little about art. In addition, it was a closed circle. Many sculptors felt that no one understood them, did not appreciate their hard work, the hassle of materials, casts. There was some validity in this, because, for example, a graphic designer puts a graphic work in an envelope and sends it to the other side of the world. A sculptor has more difficulty with everything: with material, with the process of making, with transportation, with selling, with exhibiting. Hence, moreover, the greater dependence on the patron and orders. This confinement, however, was xenophobic in nature. It was believed that only a sculptor could judge another sculptor. Everything was supposed to simmer in its own sauce. (…)

“The Sculptures of the Year” caused an unheard-of knot of discussions and disputes. Suddenly it appeared that this is where prestige is born, that this is where it is decided who is the best sculptor. (…) The academic elite boycotted the event, unwilling to risk their tarnished prestige. Bandura held meetings at the Academy and proved that exhibitions have a demoralizing effect on young people. (…)

The sculpture community has always been politicized. The party gave jobs, studios and, above all, major commissions. It provided what the sculptors needed and thus made them dependent. Many young, talented people got trapped this way. Now some say that they were fulfilling social requests. This, of course, is nonsense. Society was incapacitated in this area. All those Lenins, monuments in honor of the USSR or the secret police were the communist party commissions. These monuments gave a lot of prestige. The party took great care of this. And there happened an event where it was difficult to confirm this prestige. (…) The last time I participated in it was in 1981, and the next year the exhibition was obviously gone. Then ZPAP (Polish Visual Artists’ Union) was briefly revived and supported the boycott of official events. Unfortunately, the specific nature of the sculpture community became evident. Most sculptors decided to take part in the next “Sculpture of the Year”, organized by the BWA Gallery. And yet it was an event stolen from the Union, and the Union itself, to which we all belonged, was being harassed. It was 1983, and the boycott was very important at the time.

(“O Rzeźbie Roku,” interview with Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Tygodnik Solidarność Małopolska Nr. 19, 13.05.1990)


The Rotunda cycle is continued. Rotunda with a Chain/Rotunda z łańcuchem, Rotunda of Mills/Rotunda młyn, Textile Rotunda (Bell Tower)/Rotunda tekstylna (dzwonnica) are realised. In the last work the artist uses fabric stretched on a metal construction; the sculpture can be set in motion and then a bell is being heard.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś,  Rotundas/Rotundy, exhibition at the Krzysztofory Gallery, 1990, photo by M. Gardulski


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Lady with a Little Bird/Dama z ptaszkiem, 1964, photo by M. Gardulski (MOCAK Kraków)

Lady with a Little Bird/Dama z ptaszkiem comes into being, the last cement work using the learned sculpture skills. For formal and content reasons, it can be considered as a transitional stage between Rotundas and Corsets/Gorsety. Corsets are merely traces of women, in Lady with a Little Bird the lady is simultaneously present and absent. It is a wall-mounted concrete slab with the outline of a face and embedded feminine trinkets: a comb, a ring and beads. She is dressed in a quilted vest with holes through which her naked breasts protrude.

The artist recalls:

In my youth, I considered nature and art as the only beautiful worlds and good in their naturalness. I saw art as a refuge from the trappings of the world around me (communism). It was where I was allowed to be myself. I carried out my adventure with art behind the door of my studio and would contemplate whether to exhibit the works. All exhibitions and vernissages were a very emotional experience for me. Especially when my works dealt with personal feminine themes.

(“Why performance?,” manuscript, 1997)

In another place, she writes about the years 1958/64:

I believe that my husband’s early artistic success while I was performing the mystery of “motherhood” was a burden for me. I never made up for this “stop” on my artistic path.  What I write might be considered exaltation, but that’s how I feel about it.

(notes, manuscript, 1990)


Eliminating weight from sculpture.  The Hanging Corset/Gorset wiszący, the first work of the series, gets created. It covers not only a woman’s torso but also her thighs. It hangs in space slightly parted, as if lurking for its next victim. The artist recalls:

Corsets used to adhere to bodies, taming them into the shape desired by men. I have already written about the fact that by deforming the body, they deformed the psyche as well. (…) The corset seemed to me to be a symbol.  Its contents have gone, but it remains and is accusatory. The Hanging Corset is parted at the top and is suspended in space, as if awaiting its victim.

(“Notebook with a Dalmatian,” manuscript, 1996)


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Hanging Corset/Gorset wiszący, 1965, Corset on the Board/Gorset na desce, 1967, Cover for my Lower (Head)/Pokrowiec dla mojego kochanka (głowa), 1967, With a Rose in Teeth/Z różą w zębach, 1970, photo by M. Gardulski


And further:

It was a dramatic struggle. By breaking with the traditional sculpture practice and imposing on myself a completely new system of work, with reference to other, non-artistic fields of female activity, I made a breakthrough and found myself in the circle of women’s issues. At that time, it was perceived as a rather absurd and crazy step . By rejecting what was conventional, I had to reach out to my own “self.” And this “self ” was a woman, with all the burden of gender issues. Content is one thing, and form and its problems another. Both were important issues for me.

(Statement in the exhibition catalog at the Studio Gallery, Warsaw 1997).

The corsets are made using a self-developed technique similar to papier mâché, sometimes the paper form is covered with fabric.

In summer she travels to Yugoslavia, together with her husband and daughter (Jerzy Bereś participates in „Forma Viva” symposium-open-air in Kostanjevica na Krki).



In January she participates in Tadeusz Kantor’s happening A Dividing Line/Linia podziału.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Swing Goset/Gorset-trapez, 1966, photo by M. Gardulski (National Museum in Kraków)

The corset series continues Swing Corset/Gorset-trapez, Corset on the Board/Gorset na desce, Erect Corset/Gorset stojący, Standart-Corset/Sztandar-Gorset.

Each of the Corsets is an individualized trace-record of a woman’s history. Swing Corset is a shell shaped like a woman’s torso. It is held in an upright position on a bar suspended from ropes and decorated with flags. The shell is gray, only the breasts have their natural vivid color. The head bears the imprint of a man’s hand.  Erect corset stands on three wooden legs. From the outside, it is made of gray fabric, and two holes can be found in the breast area, one of which is laced. You can look inside from above: it is pink and you can see the glued hair. The corset on the Board is shaped like a dress which is sort of “crucified” on the board. Below it there are reflected footprints on a blue background can be found.

In 1965 she writes a poem:

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Erect Corset/Gorset stojący, 1967, photo by M. Gardulski (National Museum in Wrocław)

Real corsets
Mental corsets
accompany women throughout ages
body, psyche
bodies depart
pass away
corsets remain
gorsets of grandmother
greatgreat grandmothers
cages of young bodies
cages of warm hearts
cages of mind
bonds throughout ages
corset – a cry from the dark


Pinińska calls for the “mental corsets” to be discarded. Her call corresponds temporally, as well as ideologically, with the rise of the so-called “second wave” of feminism, which of course she could not have known about as Poland was largely cut off from the Western world. The beginning of the second wave is considered to be the book Betty Friedman’s book „The Feminine Mystique” published in the USA in 1963.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś with Standart-Corset/Sztandar-Gorset in front of the block of flats where she lives, 1972 (object in the collection of Silesian Museum in Katowice)

At the same time, Covers/Pokrowce are created which are works formally related to Corsets though content-wise directed towards men. Cover for My Lover/Pokrowiec dla mojego kochanka (1967) hangs on a hanger and resembles skin taken off a man. The genitals are marked and the surface shows traces of iron burns. The artist would write years later:

Because of the material I use my works carry the drama of transience. This was in line with the disinterestedness of youth, as well as the spirit of that time. And these were the years just before the emergence of happening and later performance. I was making works in the heat of the moment, not caring about their future condition, rushing on to the next and the next. Many didn’t survive. I made most of them on a piece of floor near my lair.

(“O M.,” manuscript, 1996).

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Cover for my Lover /Pokrowiec dla mojego kochanka/, 1967(Museum of Modern Art in Warszawa)

In Osieki, in the summer of 1967, she performs an individual action on the side of T. Kantor’s “Sea Happening”. Encouraged by this event, she plans another. This ultimately ends just in sketches and notes. She does not return to the idea of direct action until 1976.

During “Sea Happening” Maria walked among the beachgoers with a suitcase, wearing a coat and a headscarf. Her action was quite silent. It probably didn’t appeal to Kantor because it evoked political associations. In those years, the sight of a man with a suitcase on the beach was associated with frequent escapes across the Baltic Sea to Sweden.




Table II – The Feast/Stół II – Uczta, a work with a distinctly feminist content, is created. On the tabletop of The Table can be found fragments of a woman’s body, some drawn, others made of papier mâché that has been painted white. On a linen napkin lie a knife and fork, next to which, like rolls, are two round female breasts.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Table II – The Feas/ Stół II – Uczta, 1968, photo by M. Gardulski (Regional Museum in Radom)

The artist recalls:

I think it was in 1968 that [M. Konieczny] publicly admitted that the awards [at the Sculpture of the Year] were determined not only by artistic criteria but also by political criteria. I remember that the political pressure was incredibly strong at that time. I felt like a leper because everyone preferred to keep away from us.

(“On the Sculpture of the Year,” interview with Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Tygodnik Solidarność Małopolska Nr. 19, 13.05.1990).

In another text she writes:

I abandoned the corsets without regret, like many of my earlier works, with my eyes burning with anticipation of future nebulously emerging fascinations.

(“Notebooks from Busko,” manuscript, 1997)


The following works get created: Raft/Tratwa, Table I am sexy/ Stół jestem sexy and Love machine/Maszynka miłości.  The latter work is initially exhibited under the title Cradle/Kolebka (e.g. at a solo exhibition at the Współczesna Gallery in Warsaw).

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Raft/Tratwa, 1969 (Silesian Museum in Katowice)

Raft/Tratwa is a slightly tilted board on which stands a waist-cut figure of a naked man made of papier mâché. His shadow on the board is a drawn silhouette of a naked woman with loose hair. A small flag with a drawing of a flower is tucked into the raft.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Table I’m Sexy/Stół jestem sexy, 1969, photo by J. Szmuc

Table I am sexy resembles a set Easter table, but instead of yeast cake, ham and an Easter lamb, fragments of a woman’s body made of papier mâché are placed on it. A flag with the words ‘I am sexy’ is hammered into the table, resembling the flag that usually accompanies the lamb. On the table top one can see the outline of man’s hands, ” fastened” with a chain.



Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Love Machine/  Maszynka miłości, 1969, photo by M. Gardulski (National Museum in Wrocław)

Love Machine is a small trough on four thin legs. It is a participatory work. By turning the crank, the four female legs, cut out of plywood, are set in a whirling motion, and in the trough, a rose-shaped phallus rotates in a vaginal slit.

The artist recalls that she was initially afraid to give the works titles that directly revealed their message.  This also applied to other works.

From the mid-1960s I created erotic works, but presenting them did not come easily to me. I was very emotional about every show, I didn’t sleep through the night. There were moments when I felt like a fallen woman.

(“I felt like a fallen woman,” Rzeczypospolita, No. 1/15, January 1991)


For a number of years, the artist’s works have been destroyed at exhibitions by an anonymous perpetrator, e.g. by imprinting shoe marks or dropping excrements.



In January and February 1970 Maria’s solo exhibition at Piwnica pod Baranami in Krakow. She shows CorsetsRaft, Lady with a Little Bird, Table I am Sexy, Covers. No reviews appear so she writes them herself with the sole purpose of personal use.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Spit/Rożno, 1970, photo from the family archive


The year 1970 brings a political breakthrough in Poland. Władysław Gomułka’s cabinet, responsible for suppressing the student protests of 1968 and for unleashing an anti-Semitic campaign, is removed from power after workers’ strikes were violently suppressed. Gomułka was replaced by Edward Gierek, portrayed by propaganda as a technocrat who would liberalise and satisfy the consumerist demands of a hungry society. Over the next few years, however, it becomes clear that the nature of the totalitarian system will not change.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Little Pink Table/Stolik różowy, 1970, photo by J. Szmuc

Maria realizes a work untypical of her. It is Spit/Rożno. A skewer with a crank is mounted in a wooden toilet seat on which a browned chicken made of papier mâché is stuck. A long strip from the Kultura magazine, the most important cultural magazine in Poland is wound around the chicken like a toilet paper.

The first works from the psychofurniture series are created, including  A Little Pink Table/Stolik różowy, Pink Mirror/Różowe zwierciadło, Drawer/Szuflada, Cupboard I/Szafka I.

A woman’s crotch is drawn on the round top of  A Little Pink Table. On the table there is an apple made of papier mâché with a knife stuck in it.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Pink Mirror/Różowe zwierciadło, 1970, photo from the family archive


A Pink Mirror/Różowe  zwierciadło is a chest of drawers with pull-out drawers. On the top, a pink inscription ‘A Pink Mirror’ runs around the mirror, in one drawer there are rows of female breasts, the other is filled with a female body. In the corner of the hanging Cupboard I/Szafka I like a nest built by bees dangle two white breasts that cast shadows in various shades of pink on the back wall. The cabinet door is open, a white plate is placed inside.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Drawer/ Szuflada, 1970, photo from the family archive

Drawer/Szuflada is filled to the brim with large, swollen, female lips.


Eye/Oko and the first Existentiarium/Egzystencjarium get created.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Existentiarium/ Egzystencjarium, 1971, photo from the family archive (Regional Museum in Chełm)

The artist recalls:

In 1970 the water creatures, which my child had looked after, died. What remained was a glass cube. Strangely enough, I felt that my own existence is similar to the one that had previously inhabited this cube. I placed three female mouths in it, full and pink, stuck to the glass walls like snails. This is how the first Existentialarium was created

(“Existentiaria,” rkps, 1994)

17 years later,  Existentiarium – The Consolidated Beast/Egzystencjarium – Potwór Ugłaskany would be created, followed by others, forming a significant series of works in the artist’s oeuvre..


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Eye/Oko, 1971, photo from the family archive (in a private collection)


New works: Basin/Miednica, Keep Smiling, Is a Woman a Human Being?/Czy kobieta jest człowiekiem?, Fallen Woman/Kobieta upadła. Thanks to the reproduction of the latter work, the artist will be invited in 1979 to participate in the “International Exhibition of Feminist Art” presented in a number of Dutch museums.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Is a Woman a Human Being?/Czy kobieta jest człowiekiem?, 1972, photo by M. Gardulski (Regional Museum in Radom)

Is a Woman a Human Being? is a glazed display case in which a fragment of a woman’s body, cut out in the shape of a swimming costume and made of papier mâché and covered with pink kiss marks, hangs on a pole. The plate above reads “date of production… expiry date…?”.  Fallen Woman is made of a pink blanket with the outline of a woman’s body on it, reminding of what the police make at the scene of a murder. The folded corner of the blanket bearing the title of the work is immobilised by a large stone.

The dominant colours in her sculptures are white and pink associated with the colours of the body. Pink is a despised colour in art being associated with the boudoir, infantile and kitsch. As if in spite of this, Pinińska chooses it as her own colour. She will soon be performing her actions under the pink banner.

She performs an action for a camera using the Standart-Corset. Carying it she marches in front of the block of flats where she lives.


Successive psychofurniture come into being: Whispers/Szepty, Basin/Umywalka, Supboard II/Szafka II. Also Screen/Parawan – the first work that features undeniably soft elements

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Basin/Umywalka, 1973, photo by J.Szmuc (National Museum in Wrocław)

The work Whispers refers to a confessional. On a triangular kneeler lies a white and pink quilted cushion. In front of it there is an arched wall in which  a parted, pink mouth with full lips is placed. Basin is a stool in the top of which there is an opening for a basin. The basin is not present, and the opening is like a cross-section of the waist of a female figure. Its lower part, reminiscent of the legs of Venus in Boticelli’s “The Birth of Venus”, is under the tabletop; the upper part is absent. When we stand in front of the three-winged Screen, painted in wave patterns with different shades of pink, we see the end of a pink stocking at its bottom. When we look at the other side of the Screen we see the other end of this stocking lying on a shelf. It is a fleshy pink oblong cushion.

Maria wrote about this period:

From the early 1970s my sculptures become soft. Already in the early 1960s there appeared soft dérives in the Rotundas. Fabric was stuffed, modelled; sponges draped. And with physical force applied, the bulkiness of the material was modelled and covered with acrylic – colour. So it is modelled sculpture, but in a very different way to conventional sculpture

(“O M.,” rkps, 1996).

An Ephemeral S-core (Rubbish)/ Party-tura efemeryczna (śmieć) is created, damaged in the 1980s. This work, together with S-core II (with  Little Tail)/Party-tura II (z ogonkiem) (1974), foreshadows an important series of works for the 1990s. In An Ephemeral S-core (Rubbish), a twisted tower  made of paper is featured, foreshadowing a motif that was significant for the 1990s.

In December, an individual exhibition at the Współczesna Gallery in Warsaw; it features 22 works covering the period 1967-1973, including all the psychofurniture created during that period. Not a single review is published.

Little Pink Table, Pink Mirror, Cupboard I, Table I am Sexy and Eye are purchased by Arturo Schwarz, the gallery owner from Milan.



Cruise across the Seas and Oceans around the Table/Rejs przez morza i oceany dookoła stołu, Leda’s Dressing Table/Gotowalnia Ledy, Mangle/Magiel, Poetic Place/Miejsce poetyckie, Erotic Swaddling Blanket/Becik erotyczny come into being.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Erotic Swaddling Blanket/Becik erotyczny, 1974, photo by M. Gardulski

Cruise across the Seas ans Oceans around the Table is a wooden bucket in which a pink sheet of water crinkles. Large pink lips folded for a kiss float on the waves. In Leda’s Dressing Table, a variety of furnishings are arranged on a trapezoidal white panel: a standing oval mirror, half of whose surface is pink; a long, coiled tube disappearing into an opening; cushions with pink marks of use.  Erotic Swaddling Blanket is a cot on short legs, evoking associations with a phallus. It has a white strip of sponge bending over it on which body parts are outlined in light pink. The end of the cot is rounded and clad in a wrinkled pink cover.  Looking into the tilted oval mirror of Poetic Place, hanging on the wall, we see the reflection of a naked woman’s torso.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Poetic Place/Miejsce poetyckie, 1974, photo by M. Gardulski (National Museum in Kraków)

The Little Garden/Ogródek, the first work from the group of landscape sculptures comes into being; to be developed in the following years, such as The Returnig Wave/Powracjąca fala (1978), Venus of the Sea Froth/Wenus z morskiej piany (1977), Well of Pink/Studnia różu (1977), Stream/Struga (1979), Stone into the Water/Kamień w wodę (1981), The Setting of the Sun on the Lake/Zachód słońca na jeziorze (1984). Most of them are spatial arrangements, each time set up by the artist depending on the place of presentation. The artist recalls:

I participated in the creation of the installation; the pieces of little furniture, their arrangements and their interrelationships were, in a sense, an anticipation of today’s “fashion”.

(“O M.,” manuscript 1996).

The Little Garden is a partially developed walkway with a bed of paper-cut flowers. It is surrounded on two sides by a white wooden fence and the rails bear the inscription ‘And I have my little intimate world’.


In late August and early September she is in Germany accompanying her husband as he performs the multi-day manifestation The Wooden Road/Drewniana droga at Gruga Park in Essen. She is his interpreter as she speaks German well.


The figurative elements that were present in the earlier furniture pieces filled with the female body disappear. The works that emerge are  Bed (The Love of a Quilt for the Sheet)/Łoże (miłość kołdry do prześcieradła), My Enchanting Little Room/Mój uroczy pokoik, Scream/Krzyk, Sesame/Sezam, Bed with Little Rabbit/ Łoże z króliczkiem. The traces of presence and manipulations of perspective replace figuration.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, My Enchanting Little Room/Mój uroczy pokoik, 1975, photo by M. Gardulski (National Museum in Kraków)

My Enchanting Little Room consists of a slightly raised trapezoid-shaped floor and three walls. In the back wall there is an oval opening blocked by a rolled up pink cushion. On the side walls hang quilted blankets with pink bump marks on them. A group of pink snake tubes lies on the floor along the walls. “The bed” resembles a spacious chaise longue. On it lies a partially rolled up sponge, brown on one side and pink on the other. At the front, a pink tongue emerges from under it.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Scream/Krzyk, 1975 (National Museum in Wrocław)

Scream is a strange seat where a viewer gets the feeling of looking down a throat. The triangular seating area, sloping sharply downwards, is covered with a white quilted mattress. Lying on it is a large spherical pink cushion, the pillowcase of which is twisted tightly into a cord on one side, disappearing through a tight opening found in the back of the seat.  A skewer has been nailed to the headboard of the  Bed with Little Rabbit which is a piece of furniture constructed with the disruption of perspective, so characteristic of Pinińska. A real rabbit skin hangs from it.

In May she receives the prize for 1974 awarded by the Section of Art Criticism of the Polish Journalists Association in Krakow (together with T. Kantor, A. Haska and J. Głuszak). In the exhibition catalogue, Andrzej Sawicki justifies this award in the following way:

Maria Pinińska-Bereś’ sculptural oeuvre attracts attention with its distinctiveness, independence of artistic creation and personal tone of expression. The latter is particularly rare in sculpture which by its very nature revolves around monumental themes, using appropriate technical means for these themes: materials and form, while Pinińska-Bereś’ sculptures are intimate, composed of materials of little permanence such as textile, papier mâché or wood. It is not the permanence of the material, but the permanence of certain motifs, themes and archetypes in culture that the artist “plays with.”  Inventively drawing on culture, referring to myths or archetypes, she nevertheless remains highly critical of the iconosphere produced by that culture. It is probably where her peculiarity in imagery comes from.

This need for individual expression has, in my opinion, been decisive for the pupil of Dunikowski to remain faithful to her concerns from the beginning of her creative path.In principle, I do not adhere to any sculptural discipline, I do not refer to any style, I use whatever means I need at a given moment”, says Pinińska-Bereś. We add to this quoted statement an inscription appearing on the artist’s work, shown at “The Sculpture of the Year” exhibition: “ja mam swój intymny mały świat”/”I have my own little intimate world”. Indeed, it is a world of her own, consistently created by the artist. It is a world of femininity with all its attributes.    Pink Mirror and Leda’s Dressing Table belong to it, as well as “The Love Machine” and, finally, the outline of the female figure on the carpet showing The Fallen Woman.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Bed (the Love of a Quilt for the Sheet/ Łoże (Miłość kołdry do prześcieradła), 1975, photo by T. Żółkowska (MOCAK Kraków)

There is room for irony in the poetics of this world because it originates outside pathos and fascinations, out of intelligent detachment, out of a sensitivity thorough the analysis of phenomena. Gender and gender issues in contemporary society are a sphere on which important social experiences focus and where the most distant cultural traditions intersect being still alive . This sphere is explored in Pinińska-Bereś’ work. What abundance of human motifs can be derived from it is proved by her sculptural oeuvre. Significant and non-significant matters which are discussed from a distance with a fine line of humour and irony make me think of a certain kinship between the attitude of this artist and the attitude conveyed by the poems of Wisława Szymborska – the same awareness of conventionality and, at the same time, of the reality of creation is present in her poetry:

“I am inventing the world in my mind, second edition,

Second edition, revised, (…)”

Let’s say: in case of Maria Pinińska-Bereś – second edition, refined and unified in its artistic synthesis.

(Andrzej Sawicki, “Maria Pinińska-Bereś,” III wystawa laureatów nagród krytyki plastycznej za rok 1974, Pryzmat, Kraków 1975).

She participates in the exhibition “Ten Artists Present the New and Most Recent” organised by the National Museum in Poznań on the occasion of the AICA Congress; also in the exhibition “Xawery Dunikowski and His Disciples. On the centenary of his birth” at the Xawery Dunikowski Museum in Warsaw.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, The Tent/Namiot, 1976, photo by  O. Hanusek (Museum of Art in Łódź)

Lamentations/Lamentacje, The Tent/Namiot, The Circle/Krąg come into being.

A white quilted duvet lies in The Tent which resembles an Indian wigwam. A curved tube is placed on top of it. At the tilted entrance to the tent there is a sign that reads “if you suppress/your voice too long/if you are unwell/enter/the tent and shout/PS. Leave your footwear before entering”.

The Circle is arranged with stones. Inside it lies a quilt, and from its little rise four flags stick out: two pink ones, one white and one (which is more like a ribbon) black. In the corner of the quilt, torn and unwound, two apples and bread are placed like in a nest. They are made of papier mâché. In Lamentations, a man’s head made of papier mâché is placed on a canvas stretched over four posts, set in the mounds of stones.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, The Circle/Krąg, 1976, photo by R. Głowacki


A Window in Spring/Okno wiosną is created. This work belongs to the cycle of the little pieces of furniture. However, it foreshadows the important ‘Windows’ series. The shutters of A Window in Spring are open to the eye, and the opening is obscured by a large pink cushion. It is a real object, but thanks to its sophisticated form, it creates the illusion of an unreal perspective.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, A Window in Spring/Okno wiosną, 1976, photo from the family archive


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Kite-Letter/Latawiec-List, early spring 1976, photo by P. Rybak

In early spring, she carries out the outdoor action Kite-Letter/ Latawiec-List. The action is observed by a group of people privately invited by the artist. Maria flies a kite with the words “sorry I was, I am” written on its tail. She will repeat this action formula several times. In September, the next action is Apollo’s Standartd/Sztandar Apollina. She runs over a pink banner lying on the ground with an embroidered image of Apollo and the inscription “goodbye Apollo” on her tiptoes, leaving dark pink marks. After both actions, the objects remain to be exhibited in the gallery.

In March at “Sculpture of the Year 1975” she gets a prize for a set of her works including My Enchanting Little Room, Sesame, Craddle II/Kołyska II (probably meaning Lamentations).


When discussing the exhibition “Format: Human” at the Stu Gallery, Andrzej Sawicki compares her oeuvre to the poetry of Wisława Szymborska again:

I once compared Maria Beresiowa’s work to that of Wisława Szymborska: the same distance, the same independence and irony, the same broad references, showing the contact of what is most human and intimate with what is most objectified: with the conventions and conventionalities that regulate social life, with the imperatives of civilization.

(Andrzej Sawicki, “Format: Człowiek,” Dziennik Polski, 12.11.1976)

A solo exhibition at the Labirynt Gallery in Lublin.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Lamentations/ Lamentacje, 1976, photo from the family archive



Maria Pinińska-Bereś, The Well of Pink/Studnia różu, 1977, photo from the family archive (National Museum in Poznań)

New pieces come into being: Venus of the Sea Froth/Wenus z morskiej piany and Well of Pink/Studnia różu, a work with a bold formal premise (continuum), involving the spreading of a 10-metre-long ribbon of quilted pink duvet wound from one end onto the well which results in annexing the gallery space. A similar formal premise will be repeated in Stream/Struga from 1979. Venus of the Sea Froth is a thick, pink snake tube that loops into a knot and sticks upwards with its tapering end amidst overlapping plywood-cut and painted waves.





In summer she carries the action Praying for Rain/Modlitwa o deszcz. In a meadow close to where she lives, Maria rips up the turf to create a large circular arena. She sticks pink banners into the surrounding embankment formed from the turf at equal intervals. She lies down on her back in the middle and folds her palms like little bowls, waiting for the rain.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Praying for Rain/Modlitwa o deszcz, summer 1977, photo from the family archive

She participates in the 17th Biennale of Outdoor Sculpture in Antwerp and in the “VII Krakow Meetings” in October.


The Returning Wave/Powracająca fala is created. It is a stuffed form sewn from canvas that forms a large cylinder running in a circle with bulging waves. The closer to the top of the wave the more intense the pink colour is. A streak of sand is strewn diagonally across it.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, The Returnig Wave/Powracająca fala, 1978, photo from the family archive (National Museum in Poznań)


In summer she participates in  the Meetings of Artists and Theorists in Warcin. There he realises An Observation Point of Changes in Art/Punkt obserwacyjny zmian w sztuce. A wooden platform is placed on a tall tree to which a pink rope ladder leads. The path leading to this place is marked with arrows bearing the inscription “to an observation point of changes in art”. This is her commentary on the outdoor disputes and discussions.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, An Observation Point of Changes in Art/Punkt obserwacyjny zmian w sztuce, Warcino 1978, photo from the family archive


In early spring, a group of people, privately invited by the artist, observe the Author’s Standart/Sztandar autorski action. At a few locations in nature chosen by her, Maria sticks a pink banner, spreads a quilted blanket in front of it and plays the flute.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Author’s Standart/Sztandar autorski, krakowski Prądnik, early spring 1979, photo from the family archive (Museum of Art in Łódź)


In March, at the ‘Sculpture of the Year 1978’, he carries out the action Passage Beyond the Quilt/Przejście przez kołdrę. She places on the floor a white quilt in the shape of a diamond with a pole stuck in it with a ‘crossing’ sign. On top of the quilt she puts flat stones that are sometimes laid in a stream to cross it with a dry foot. Maria steps onto the quilt with a pink flag carrying an armful of pink soft forms from her sculptures. Stepping carefully from stone to stone she discards successive pieces behind as she walks. She reaches the other end of the quilt with only the flag and sits down in a Turkish position in front of the quilt. At the exhibition she receives an award for a set of works: Venus of the Sea Froth, Passage Beyond the Quilt, An Observation Point for Changes in Art.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Passage Beyond the Quilt/Przejście poza kołdrę, BWA Kraków, marzec 1979, photo from the family archive



Maria Pinińska-Bereś, The Place. A Portable Monument/Przenośny pomnik pt. Miejsce, Świeszyno, 1979, photo from the family archive

In September she participates in an open-air workshop in Świeszyno near Miastko. She carries out two actions: Soap Bubbles/Bańki mydlane and The Place. A Portable Monument/Przenośny Pomnik pt Miejsce. She commented on the latter work:

There is in it a whole history of reflections on the question of the monument, my rejection many years ago of this possibility as incompatible with the spirit of the times when we begin to value relics of nature and turn away with aversion from the concrete blocks decorated in pea or other patterns. The Portable Monument, as an act of affirmation of nature, does not destroy its surroundings because it does not interfere with them. Its duration is short, it gets dismantled and can be erected elsewhere if such a  need arises. What follows is a dramatic ordeal with the wind, or rather a hurricane; after the first setbacks, the monument emerges victorious, its canopy transformed into a sail, standing rigidly all day with the wreath of the inscription: “there is such a place on Earth

(“Self-Reflection,” typescript, 1980)


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Soap Bubbles/Bańki mydlane, Świeszyno, autumn 1979, photo from the family archive



Soap bubbles take place among the gentle grassy uplands. A rectangular area has been cordoned off with white poles and string inside of which lies a white quilt with a pink banner stuck into it. Maria, dressed in a white gown, lies on the quilt and produces soap bubbles. The action is meant to symbolise the nature of ephemeral art.



Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Stream/Struga, 1979, photo by M. Gardulski

On the occasion of the exhibition “Erotica” opened at Dom Plastyka in Warsaw in October, Andrzej Osęka writes:

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, as always witty and – above all – subtle, creates small environments out of white and pink materials, perversely boudoir-like, free from any literality, on the contrary,  abounding in symbols or rather allusions and encryptions. Some traces of blusher, lipstick, some parting of the pillow.

(Andrzej Osęka, “Wystawa z pieprzykiem,” Kultura, October 1979).


In November, the exhibition “Feminist Art International” opened at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. The exhibition will be shown in various Dutch museums throughout the next year. It is an exhibition summarising a decade of feminist art. In the course of the exhibition Maria’s work The Fallen Woman gets stolen.

In December, she is admitted to the Krakow Group Art Association. She writes:

I didn’t become a member of the Cracow Group until 1979. I was recommended by Jonasz Stern which was strange to me as ideologically I was at the opposite extreme and socially I was not in direct contact with Stern either. Ever since my clash with Polewka at the Academy of Fine Arts exam when he made a mockery of my father who had been murdered by the NKVD, I felt both stigmatised and accusing. I was inhibited in my contacts with communists. Stern appatently drew attention to my art at Sculptures of the Year exhibitions. Anyway, I consider Stern to be sensitive to art and disinterested.

(“Why performance?,” manuscript, 1997)

She takes part in the exhibition ‘Polish Avant-Garde’ at the Kautsch Gallery in Kassel. This exhibition subsequently disappeared somewhere in Italy; her object Kite-Letter and documentation of the action along with it .


The action The Banner/Transparent takes place in winter. Maria arrives in the middle of a snowy field dragging a pink sledge behind her. She is followed by several artist friends. Maria is dressed in a pink coat with a pink horn-shaped container slung over her shoulder. She unloads the banner from the sledge and fixes it in the snow. On the pink canvas of the banner there is the word ‘pink’ written in white. Sprinkling pigment, she writes the word ‘white’ in pink on the snow in front of and behind the banner. Pulling the empty sledge and making ever-widening circles around the banner she departs.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, The Banner/Transparent, January 1980, photo from the family archive

In April, at “Sculpture of the Year 1979,” she is awarded the Grand Prix for a set of objects and documentation from actions including: Author’s Standart, Soap Bubbles, The Place. A Portable Monument and the arrangement The Corner (all my affairs)/Kąt (wszystkie moje sprawy).

In April and May, her individual exhibition “Objects, Environment, Documentation from 1970-1980” at the Krzysztofory Gallery in Krakow with 30 works are on display. In the introduction to the catalogue (published only in 1983) A. Kostołowski analyses her works:

Developing her artistic activity as a sculptor, she has evolved from genre-explicit works through non-media ideological emblems to the stream of installation-performances of recent years: from putting forward alternative “feminine” proposals to the current alloy of private mythology with an attempt to build direct contact with the audience. (…) When one reviews the works representing feminist art of recent years in various countries, one is struck by the fact that the Polish artist was far ahead of this trend of feminist criticism achieving artistic results of no lesser significance than those generated by the feminist enclaves of alternatives. Among the repertoire patterns, a certain kind of assemblage philosophy, treated as the idea of juxtaposing the problematics of several spheres of interpretation simultaneously, is constantly present in Pinińska’s work. It is a fundamental juxtaposition of the real (readymade objects, real context, real actions) and the fictional, mock-up and prepared (pictorial and descriptive elements, imitations and reconstructions), and the juxtaposition of these spheres itself introduces an important dramaturgical (or ironic) element.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Landscape Annexation/Aneksja krajobrazu, Świeszyno, autumn 1980, photo from the family archive

In autumn, a plein-air in Świeszyno; there her  action Landscape Annexation/Aneksja krajobrazu takes place. Wearing a pink dress, carrying a pink banner on her shoulder, she walks through the grass along a picturesque lake towards a hill; the participants of the plein-air follow her. The hillside is fenced off with white poles and string. She reaches the very top and hoists a pink banner. A pink beaker is on her shoulder, a paintbrush in her hand. She walks slowly down the hill and paints numerous stones on the way pink. When she reaches the bottom of the hill, she hangs a sign on the fence that reads “The Land Annexed (Temporarily)”. The paint gets washed away by the first rain.

Meanwhile surprising political changes are taking place in Poland. Following a wave of strikes in major factories, the communist authorities agree to the formation of the Solidarity trade union, the first independent organisation in the Eastern Bloc after the Second World War. Ten million people soon sign up.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Laundry I/ Pranie I”, Galeria ON. Poznań, November 1980, in collections of Ujazdowski Castle. Centre for Contemporary Art in Warszawa,  photo from the family archive

In November, she takes part in the Women’s Art Festival at the ON gallery in Poznań where she performs Laundry/Pranie action. In a space fenced off with poles and string, there are two metal tubs and a pink banner is stuck next to them. Maria enters the space with a bunch of white linen cloths and throws them into the tubs. She washes them thoroughly using a washboard, then rinses the linen cloths in the second tub. She begins to hang them on a string. It turns out that a pink letter is painted on each piece of linen. When she hangs the last one the audience can read out the word “feminism.”

In December, the 16th exhibition of the Krakow Group takes place. From now on she will take part in all the Group’s exhibitions.

Andrzej Osęka writes:

When we look at Maria Pinińska-Beresiowa’s art many terms come to mind, which we then must abandon as they seem too literal, too unambiguous. They contradict one another. (…) It is all clean, tidy, and therefore somehow restrained in expression. Brand new, ironed – and therefore a bit like a boarding school girl who suddenly starts smiling ambiguously. There are no scenes from the repertoire of strictly erotic art here. The artist invents unfamiliar, surprising motifs: The love of a quilt for a sheet, A window in spring. In fact, this is a theatre of objects that come closer and further apart, pressing one against the other, rubbing one against the other. Then again, they betray anxiety, excitement – with some particular gesture, unusual for a quilt, some pose, light and butterfly-like, unexpected for an open window. This is not simply a woman’s room, shown in fragments, but a fantasy of a woman’s room, a dreaming that is both lazy and irritating at the same time. Indefinable moods, muffled voices, whispers wander in between the objects which the artist observes with fascination like fetishes.

(Andrzej Osęka, “Różowe, białe, miękkie,” Polska No. 314, 1980)



Maria Pinińska-Bereś, A Stone into the Water/Kamień w wodę, 1981, photo from the family archive (National Museum in Wrocław)

A Stone into the Water/Kamień w wodę, Situation I, Situation II/Sytuacja I, Sytuacja II are created. A Stone into the Water is a disc clad in pink fabric on which circles of a spreading wave have been marked with appliqué. The disc lies on a circular layer of sand in which a large stone rests. The basic elements of Situation I, Situation II are two whips. They have been made in such a way that a long pink protective case has been half filled with a wooden rod and half stuffed with cotton wool. One whip lies on a rectangular board and then the hard and rigid part is indistinguishable from the soft part. The other whip sits in a stand and the soft part entwines the hard part.

In the summer, she performs the action Laundry again in the plein air in Osieki. The environment is completely different this time: not the cramped attic of a gallery, but a grassy area in a park. Linen with letters forming the word ‘feminism’ dry in the sun. During the action, she is disturbed by the anarchic young artists from the “Łódź Kaliska” group.

She is the commissioner (together with A. Kostołowski) of “The 9th International Krakow Meetings” of which performance art constitutes an essential part. As part of the Meetings, the artist performs Living Pink/Żywy Róż action in front of the BWA Gallery building. Andrzej Kostołowski comments:

Having planted a rose bush there, wrapping the sapling with straw and marking this real-metaphorical garden with her artist’s banner, she uttered a text in several languages in which she expressed the belief that the rose she planted would blossom pink in the spring of 1982. In doing so, she acted as usual: she juxtaposed artistic fiction with reality, the mock-up with the natural while adding an element of profanity. She has made an unambiguous stand for the triumph of life, giving life not only a metaphorical opportunity.

(“Żywy róż” [in:] Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Galeria Krzysztofory 1980)

At the end of her action, Maria asks an international audience the question in three languages: will the roses bloom pink next spring?”


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Living Pink/Żywy róż, Kraków, 15.11.1981, photo from the family archive

Less than a month later, martial law is imposed in Poland. The communist regime seeks at all costs to annihilate Solidarity which is not so much a trade union as a great social movement against the communist authorities. Thousands of people are interned and draconian prison sentences are given for opposition activities. In protest, artists announce a boycott of official galleries, the press and television.


A four-year period begins, which is strongly influenced by martial law declared in Poland on 13.12.1981. The shock caused by the events makes the artist doubt her own attitude. She tries to re-evaluate and change the subject of her works. Several years later she described that period and her own situation as follows:

I  felt that [ martial law] was also a tragedy for art, for artistic life, for the social need of contacts (the liquidation of the Polish Visual Artists’ Union). It was a total catastrophe for art, trampled down with shoddy boots. (…) During martial law I dramatically disproved my own oeuvre, my own signature (disposing of pink). I transformed the thematic scope of my works and fought for the artistic level of the works that referred to the experiences of that period; I painstakingly built up possibilities and tested the acceptable limits of contemporary art in light of the new necessities. Ambiguity was an advantage before – unambiguity a necessity now. (…) In my case, there was such a sometimes discernible delay in acceptance. Unfortunately, it happened in the early period of martial law. I had to turn my back. (…) When I refused a strange storm of artistic proposals, e.g. exhibitions in various cities and centres which I had not encountered during my great exhibition activity in the 1970s, others, including my epigones, settled for comfortable starting positions for their careers.

(The artist’s statement in the Visual Artists’ questionnaire 84/86, manuscript)


The first works in reaction to martial law are: Covers/Pokrowce, Blind/Roleta, Hot Tears/Gorące Łzy, The Tightenning of Net Curtains/Prężenie firan, Window II – the Pink’s Departure/Okno II – odejście różu. Throughout the 1980s, Maria is not invited to participate in the thriving trend of so-called “church exhibitions”. She develops a sense of isolation and devotes a lot of time to tending the plants in her garden.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Hot Tears/Gorące łzy, 1982, photo by G. Mart (Migros Museum in Zurich)

The Covers sculpture is a table that has bandaged legs at the ends. On the table lies the pink cloth clad weapons used in demonstrations: stones, sticks, clubs. Blind can be rolled up and unrolled. When unrolled, the embroidered words “no, no, the irreconciled” can be seen painted on it in white paint. At the time, the walls of Polish cities were covered with white rectangles under which anti-regime slogans were painted. Hot Tears refers to the very harsh winter of martial law. Made of white plywood, the work takes the form of a snowplough. On a pole there is suspended a red kettle with white damp patches, and below the kettle on a stretched canvas there are white stones with red stains. Window II – the Pink’s Departure takes the form of a rectangle with a sill extension. At the top it is white while it gets increasingly pink  towards the bottom. From the lower part hangs, almost reaching the floor, a long icicle which is usually formed by flowing thick liquid. Under the icicle there is a big pink drop.

She carries out a series of private actions of sending letters through the forces of nature. The letters have a political and world-view overtone. They are let loose in rivers, blown by the wind from the roofs of skyscrapers, etc. Similar activities would be repeated until 1984 and then in 1987-1989. In the latter period, the content of the letters would be purely personal (a poem on the envelope, a pink card inside). These were activities that referred to Kite-Letter of 1976. None of them were documented.

An individual exhibition at the BWA gallery in Lublin. The exhibition was planned before the declaration of martial law. The Labirynt Gallery is one of the few official galleries exempted from the boycott, paying respect to the person of its director, Andrzej Mroczek and his merits for Polish art.



Maria Pinińska-Bereś, The Fifth Corner/Kąt piąty, 1983, photo by M. Gardulski

More works were created as a reaction to martial law: And I Painted the World Pink/A ja malowałam świat na różowo, The Fifth Corner/Kąt piąty, The Last Little Ray/Ostatni promyk, The End of the Feast/Koniec uczty, Injured Boat/Zraniona łódź.

To The Fifth Corner was sent the colour pink as a form of punishment. The work consists of three converging white planes, suggesting a corner in some room. The lower plane rises slightly and a small patch of pink is pressed into the very corner.

In The Last Little Ray three white forms made of plywood stand parallel to each other on the floor with increasingly smaller accents of pink resembling reflections of the setting sun. These forms are pierced by a long white ascending rod. The End of the Feast is reminiscent of a folding, wall-mounted table, a bit like on a train. The surface of the table slopes downwards. Attached to it are pink rolled up napkins, one quite squashed. There is also a pink spill stain. Injured Boat is made up of two white overlapping and slightly bifurcated triangles. One of them is pierced by a pink pole which also supports the work.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Injured Boat/Zraniona Łódź, 1983, photo by O. Hanusek

She is represented with 25 works at the 17th International Biennale in Sao Paulo (M. Hermansdorfer is a curator of the Polish artists). She cannot go to Brazil. Wrong exhibiting of her works that have the character of space arrangements will result in the artist’s decision to withdraw from creating objects of this type.

In August, she participates in the “2nd Collection of the Krakow Group” at the Krzysztofory Gallery in Krakow. There will be seven more such shows. These are semi-official uncensored shows; for the artist, almost the only opportunity to show her new works.

In autumn, she leaves for Vienna. She realises a bronze bas-relief, which is part of a larger architectural project by her brother Zbigniew Piniński. In the 1980s, she will complete similar works in Frankfurt am Main and again in Vienna.


Only one work is created The Setting of the Sun on the Lake/Zachód słońca na jeziorze. The landscape of The Setting of the Sun on the Lake consists of two pink plywood half-ellipses slightly inclined towards each other. On the lower one, a wavy line separates the light part from the dark one. A stick with a black cloth sticks up from the place where the convex wave is located. Having already done this work, Maria – as she recalled – learned that the dead body of the Solidarity chaplain Jerzy Popiełuszko, murdered by the secret police, had been fished out of the river.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Just a Broom/Tylko miotła, Galeria BWA Lublin, December 1984 (in the private collection)

Dressed in black, she carries out the action Just a Broom/Tylko miotła at the BWA Gallery in Lublin. It is a bitter commentary on her personal situation. Dressed in black, she shuffles around with a sweeping brush displacing the numerous audience members. The brush has a very long handle and a cloth with the words “just a broom” hanging from its end. After cleaning the room, she hangs the brush on the wall.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Smudged with the Sky/Pomazany niebem, 1985, photo by L. Fidusiewicz

Smudged with the Sky/Pomazany niebem, My Bed on the Island/Moje łoże na wyspie are created . The sculpture Smudged with the Sky resembles a swallow in flight. Two wings, one lying on the floor and the other rising upwards, are bound by a pink tube. At the end of the ascending wing a blue smear of paint can be seen. My Bed on the Island is a daybed standing on an oval plywood panel. A chimney ending in a dark pink cloud protrudes next to it.


The first holiday trip to Ochotnica Górna in the Gorce Mountains. The artist has previously spent her holidays in the mountains as well, several times in Małe Ciche and many times in Jaworki. The Gorce Mountains became her love and from now on she would only go there. A number of frames used in  Windows/Okna were found during her wanderings in the Gorce Mountains.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Greedy Dreams/Łakome sny, 1985, photo by A. Pilichowski-Ragno (in the Kulczyk Collection)

Greedy Dreams/Łakome sny and Couch/Wersalka come into being. The former is a wall work taking the form of a simplified bed. The mattress and the bedding are made of upholstery foam covered in white and pink fabric. They overlap each other with pink tongues. Pink embodied upholstery foam flexes and bends in the Couch. These works are a symptom that Maria begins to recover from the trauma of martial law.


In March, at the Labyrinth Gallery in Lublin she performs the action Washing Hands/Umycie rąk. The artist washes her hands, one wearing a white glove and the other a black one. She hangs the gloves and the towel with which she has wiped her hands on a string. On the towel she crosses out the word ‘performance’. The action expressed a desire to purify life and art from the invasion of the martial law period. It was also intended as a farewell to performance. As it turned out, prematurely. The artist recalls:

(…) I thought about ending my adventure with this medium. There are various subtexts in art, some things are central others subliminal, sometimes not fully realised. Together they provide richness. However, a few more activities emerged. I couldn’t say no when I was asked. And I was experiencing these activities very intensely. I am sadly nervous and then I don’t sleep. I think about it all night, it’s exhausting. But there was always a certain deceiving charm in it. There was a time when I was very interested in ephemeral art.

(“Moje akcje,” manuscript, 1997 or 1998)


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, King and Quinn/Król i Królowa, 1986, photo by M. Gardulski (Silesian Museum in Katowice)

She shakes off the shock of martial law, returns to her old subject matters and begins a period abundant in outstanding works. A Puff and the Edge of the Sky/Ptyś i rąbek nieba and King and Queen/Król i Królowa are created.

King and Queen consists of three elements. Two of them are elevated thrones. On their reclining seats the gender markings of a man and a woman are indicated with appliques. On the floor between the thrones lies a pink ball. This sculpture initiates a series of works that refer to the world art masterpieces. Venus of the Sea Froth of 1977 features such a reference, too.

The artist describes this period:

I acknowledged that the 1981-85 period was dominated by the external factor in art, which is, despite my passionate accession, basically incompatible with my understanding of art and perhaps with my nature. I like to find satisfaction in art, I like art to be born in joyful exultation flowing directly from me. For me martial law was a torment, struggling, fighting. Satisfaction was derived from the fact that I could still do something, respond to them, hit them. But apparently these are not the qualities that are essential to my nature.

(statement in Visual Artists questionnaire 84/85, manuscript).

Towards the end of the 1990s, the artist will begin to reveal a certain distance and aversion towards her 1982/85 works.

When asked by the questionnaire about her approach to tradition, she replies:

I feel connected to all modern art, starting with the Impressionists. I experience satisfaction communing with this art, tasting the styles, the discreet charm of different styles and creations. It’s difficult to point to the roots, but I think it’s more in the surrealist, dada tradition than in abstraction, although geometric abstraction, which I like the least, has also given me some stimuli. There have been various fascinations with Moore, for example, although I have never been directly influenced by him. I experience Dunikowski’s works as if I made them myself, I can almost feel the sensual touch of my fingers.

(Visual Artists- 84/86 questionnaire, manuscript)


In March, the 18th Krakow Group exhibition at Krzysztofory.

Existentiarium – the Consolidated Beast/Egzystencjarium- potwór ugłaskany,  The Great Bareback Rider/Wielka Woltyżerka, Princess Y/Księżniczka Y, Princess Z/Księżniczka Z, The Meadow of Your Body/Łąka twojego ciałaSabbath/Sabat are created.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Existentiarium – the Consolidated Beast/Egzystencjarium – potwór ugłaskany, 1987, photo from the family archive

Existentiarium – the Consolidated Beast is an appropriation of an idea from 1971. In a glass cubicle there is a pinkish monstrosity made of sponge, resembling a large larva. The base of The Great Bareback Ride is a rolled-up mattress, set on a board that supports a piece of plywood that resembles a horse’s head. From the mattress roll emerges a diagonal bar, at the end of which two pink female breasts protrude.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Princess Y/Księżniczka Y, 1987, photo by M. Gardulski (in the Kulczyk Collection)

Princesses refers to Constantin Brancussi’s famous Princess X. They are actually quite abstract. From circular bases formed by overlapping cut plywood at a certain angle, phallic forms protrude: one is knotted at the end, the other resembles a hand in the gesture of  ‘no way’. Sabbath is a work to be hung in space. Various elements are strung on a long stick, ending in a broom of twigs, including a pink moon painted on a piece of plywood, a triple breasted woman, a pink moon-shaped cushion.

When asked in the questionnaire about her financial situation, she replies:

I have lived in poverty because I did not do hackwork. I have supported myself with purchases and sometimes, in the 1970s, I received  small awards. It was a risky life, but there are two of us, and if not one of us, then the other one would occasionally have a purchase or receive an award. However, there were also tragic periods.

(statement in the questionnaire “Visual Artists 1984/86,” manuscript)



I’ll Give you a Fern/Dam Ci kwiat paproci and the first double existentiarium: Existentiarium of a big α and a small π are created.

I’ll Give you a Fern is a diagonally positioned plywood panel on which a rippled mattress is placed. It is punctuated by a pink pole passing through small vaginal forms above. There is a tied muslin ribon below. The double existentialarium consists of two glass cubes: the larger is a reclining cuboid and the smaller is a standing cuboid. In the first there is an animal form with clearly marked breasts, in the second an animal form with a tongue glued to the wall.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Sabbath/Sabat, 1987, photo by M. Gardulski (in the Marwan T Assaf Collection)

An individual exhibition at the Krzysztofory Gallery in January and February which includes objects from the 1980s. Andrzej Kostołowski states in his introduction to the catalogue:

In this context [of postmodernism] the work of Maria Pinińska-Bereś seems to be a significant exception. In its an evident emergence from modern art and in the strand of developing the idea of deviation (dissent), modern art itself is not the subject of a juggling mimicry in the artist’s works and the sharpness of the questions she asks is subject to the iron rigours of ethics. In many of her earlier sculptures, Pininska included ideas of criticism directed towards the suppression of the role of one gender by the other being a precursor of so-called feminist art. The early 1980s generated in her works a whole spectrum of discontents relating to the perversions of life in this country. Today, it is a mature reflection not subordinated just to a single so-called theme.

It has never been a kind of  journalism as these sculpture-commentaries have been supported by many exploratory actions in the sphere of the use of spatial shapes, literal and abstract forms, the tactile and the perceptible.(…) And one more thing: her works are always beautiful in the literal sense of the word.(…) The two ‘humanised’ chairs-photo in King and Queen (1986) are works in which the artist is distancing herself from the obvious, despite her focus on the object-like forms of these quasi-furniture. They emphasise their constructiveness and strange anthropomorphism, as if taken from Wróblewski. These two figures-objects in the uphoto phase play out their relationship not through expressions or gestures (they have neither faces nor arms or legs) but through a dialogue that proceeds by means of purely visual or artistic elements such as size, angles of inclination, ways of positioning, proportions, attributes of the surface, nuances of colour, etc. The pink ball circulating between them is a piece of furniture with an anthropomorphic quality. The pink ball circulating between them is like a condensation of an attempt at emotional relations (?). All of this creates a more momentous commentary on the issue of the coexistence of man and woman than has been the case in any other work on the subject since Moore and Giacometti. Moreover, the writer of these words believes that King and Queen is one of the major masterpieces of Polish sculpture of the last half-century and that it is to be placed right next to works by Kobro, Szapocznikow, Krasiński or Bereś.

(Andrzej Kostołowski, “Stone into the Water,” 1988)

In her review of the exhibition, Krystyna Gawlik writes:

In the face of the events of the early 1980s. Maria Pinińska-Bereś began to feel ashamed of the optimistic intrusiveness of her pink. She launched a battle against it, but The Departing Pink/Odpływający róż, instead of fading away or dissolving, became even more present and tangible. The paint dripped from the painting onto the floor and ‘dried’ into the shape of a cream cake. The pink pushed into the corner (The Fifth Corner), contrary to the artist’s intentions, looks filigree, as if calling out ‘Hey cheers! long live this darling corner from which life starts’. And yet, despite the use of pink, Pinińska-Bereś managed to convey a mood of inner turmoil in her compositions such as The Little Last Ray and My Bed on the Island. The latter work was created in 1985 and may express, on the one hand, a desire for isolation and rest, but at the same time the flat, dark purple form fixed on top of a pole stuck into the “island”, resembling the shape of a bird of prey, introduces an element of horror – as if this bed was not a desire, but a necessity. (…) Maria Beresiowa’s intriguing work is above all very personal. Puffy/Ptysiowe forms can seem naïve and flat at a casual glance. There is also nothing like the colour pink that clashes with seriousness. Yet what Pinińska-Bereś does is not just a formal game and ‘painting the world pink’. It is an expression of the personality of an artist entangled in her femininity.

(Krystyna Gawlik, “Ptysiowa awangarda,” Tygodnik „Tak i Nie”, Katowice 4.03.1988)


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Princess Z/Księżniczka Z, 1987, photo by M. Gardulski (in the collection of Center of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko)

In June and July, a solo exhibition at the Galeria 72 in Chełm. Bożena Kowalska writes in the text printed on the exhibition poster:

Maria Pinińska has made her trademark and her strength out of what was commonly, albeit unwritten, considered to be a stigma, determining the incompleteness of art. Her work has the character of demonstrative femininity. This ostentation is fuelled by the symbolic colour pink, the effectively chosen props and their juxtapositions, as well as the commentary written on them – all imbued with an apparent simplicity and naivety, yet genuine poetics. They build up that metaphorical and associative sphere, so characteristic of the artist’s work, the essence of which is sad irony. (…) Both the first assemblages using objects made exclusively by the artist, and the later ones, from 1970, combining ready-made objects with the ones created by her, were neither aesthetic nor anti-aesthetic. Or, to put it more aptly: different from everything that had already become customary, yet visually aggressive, they created a separate aesthetic model that had not yet been classified and accepted. It was not the result of speculation or media experimentation, but a search for the most appropriate language to convey the artist’s insights and reflections.

During the summer holidays, she takes part in exhibitions of the Krakow Group at the District Museum in Nowy Sącz and the BWA Gallery in Rzeszów.



Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Flaming Giraffe/Płonąca żyrafa, 1989, photo by M. Gardulski (National Museum in Kraków)

Works being created: Flaming Giraffe/Płonąca Żyrafa, The Dark Side of the Moon/Ciemna strona księżyca, Existentiarium – Pink Birth/Egzystencjarium – Różowe Narodziny.

Flaming Giraffe is a two-element work. One element is a twisted sponge mattress. It forms a distinctly off-centre trunk which curls out slightly at the end and is pinked in the middle. The trunk is set on a rectangular slab and has a protruding drawer in its base. The second form is shaped like a dumpling ending with an ear that is pinked in the middle. On its back there is a bifurcated cut, associated vaginally, from which four tongues protrude.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, The Dark Side of the Moon/Ciemna strona księżyca, 1989, photo by M. Gardulski (in a private collection)

In The Dark Side of the Moon a pink mattress is attached to a pink stick like a wind-swept sail with two female breasts below it. The whole is set in a base made of the scraps of a tree trunk and an organic form resembling the curled tail of a lizard.


Two Graces Commenting on the Departure of the Third/Dwie gracje komentują odejście trzeciej, Beauty and the Beast/Piękna i bestia, The Odalisque and the Slave Girl/Odaliska i niewolnica are being created, also the first works from the window series: Window – The Leaning Tower/Okno – Krzywa wieża, Window and Demons/Okno i Demony (later stolen from the Krzysztofory Gallery). The artist writes:

I have an emotional relationship with them. Windows offer the possibility of brief actions, various formal moves. They are economical, yet not devoid of content. They often refer to nature because this is where their origin is. But they also contain erotic or feminist overtones. The window is the external world into which our psyche is projected.

(“Windows – once again,” manuscript, 1997)

Beauty and the Beast is a fleshy flower calyx made in a clothed sponge, from which stamens and a hand-shaped form protrude. The calyx is set on a pink box over which a pink snake winds. In The Odalisque and the Slave Girl, a twisted brown mattress sticks up behind a white plywood vaginal crevice surrounded by pink petals. Its brown triangular corner protrudes through the crack.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, The Odalisque and the Slave Girl/Odaliska i niewolnica, 1990, photo from the family archive

In one of the Windows, the motif of a tower, present in many later works, is  featured.

The towers appear in the Windows but also live in space. They are positioned between phallic and architectural sculptures. They have the characteristics of both. Why Towers? Because they are here, because they are provocative, because they shoot up so prominently. The architectural ones are full of enigmas, especially the water towers. For years my eyes have been starring at a derelict water tower on the northern outskirts of Krakow.

(“Gorsety i Wieże,” manuscript, 1994)


In May a short exhibition at the Krzysztofory Gallery featuring also some early works: Rotundas, Lady with a Little BirdKing and  Pawn.

She notes then:

And success? I don’t think I’ve ever had one. There was the Criticism Section prize (with T. Kantor and A. Haska) for 1974, as well as the Grand Prix at the Sculpture of the Year in Cracow in 1980, but never did these award events, from 1956 onwards, involve the notion of success, it was always a “stone in the water”; and I was affected by Bereś’s troubles with censorship, him being on the “black list”, but I had no benefit from this, e.g. coming from the opposition.

(notes, manuscript, 1990)


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Existentiarium Recovered/ Egzystencjarium odzyskane (1990), Existentiarium – Pink Birth/Egzystencjarium – różowe narodziny (1989), Little Existentiarium/Małe egzystencjarium (1990), photo by M. Węgrzyn

In a monographic text dedicated to the artist, Bożena Kowalska writes:

Pinińska-Bereś’ oeuvre has numerous and manifold qualities; both in the sphere of a reflective and emotional message and in the area of being affected by the poetics of forms and colours. However, the main strength and value of her works consists in the fact that they are not similar to anything that has been made before. While it is not a fashionable criterion in the age of postmodernism, it is still effective. (…) The forms are arbitrary and do not form sculpturally treated solids. Thus, there are disputes about the qualification of her sculptural work. The colourfulness of these works brings them closer to painting, while their three-dimensionality to sculpture. Like most phenomena which are unique, Pinińska’s work is situated on the borderline of traditional divisions of art into disciplines. (…) Unusually beautiful and unforgettable in their startling distinctiveness, shattering any habitual eye, are her pink and pink-and-white objects which are appliances or resemble appliances of the domestic environment – these, transformed-ironic symbols: chests of drawers, tables, screens, fences, quilts, or kitchen cupboards. Rarely do such different perspectives on human affairs coexist as it happens in her works. One is external, that is the perspective of women’s problems: the boudoir and the kitchen with a consistently derived sphere of symbolic objects. The other is an internal perspective that allows reflections on universal issues to be perceived in each of these processed objects. On the borderline of the commentary zones concerning both of them and used as a counterbalance to tragedy, pathos or exaltation, parody is always present – a kind of mockery, in which, however, there is a trace of tears. (…) Pinińska is first of all and foremost a poet. The metaphors she has invented have no equal in the visual arts, just as her parody sense, her discretion and emotional restraint, the self-irony of femininity and her peculiar nostalgic mockery.

(Bożena Kowalska, “Nostalgia i drwina,” Projekt Nr. 4, 1990)

In December, she participates in the exhibition “What is the use of an artist in a time of misery?” at the Zachęta Gallery in Warsaw. The exhibition provides a summary of independent culture in the 1980s. Pinińska was invited to take part in it, although she had not been  invited to any independent culture exhibitons before. In January of the following year the exhibition will be presented at the National Museum in Krakow.


Mme Recamier, the second existentiarium Existentiarium of big β and little π/Egzystencjarium dużej β i małego π, Window and Tao/Okno i Tao, Window with Continuum/Okno z Continuum come into being.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Existentiarium of big β and little π/Egzystencjarium dużej β i małego π”, 1991, photo by M. Gardulski

Mme Recamier resembles a chaise longue on which lies a pinked and undulating mattress. In place of the head there is an oval mirror in which one can see one’s own reflection. Next to it there is a long narrow undulating form ending in a spike that sticks out from a circular base.   Window with Continuum consists of three small square windows, hanging one above the other. The frames in the upper window are white, in the middle one light pink and in the lower one dark pink. Behind the panes of glass there is a pink snake that seems to pass from one window to another one.

In January and February, Maria participates in the exhibition “Touch” at the BWA Gallery in Krakow. This exhibition is the first major manifestation of the Krakow artists after martial law.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Window with Continuum/Okno z continuum, 1991, photo by M. Węgrzyn

A small solo exhibition at the Stu Theatre Gallery in February and March. Jerzy Hanusek’s review reads:

The 1980s, which brought bitterness and feelings of helplessness to people, saw a surge of interest in existential themes in Polish art. The existentialism of these times is born out of thinking about death and the cross rather than love and flowers; it is Jesuit rather than Franciscan religiousness. The essential message is a menacing memento mori; the images revolve around several themes: the helpless naked figure in the face of a harsh world, silhouettes twisted by pain or calmed by death. The readability of these existential poses is excellent, but the message rarely goes beyond the banal. A completely different creative stance is represented by Maria Pinińska-Bereś. Existential issues have always been strongly present in her art, but not in the form of easily identifiable themes. It seems that these two attitudes are as different from each other as fire and ice: their meeting ends in a hiss and puffs of steam. Pinińska fights with a charming weapon: the head of her hammer is a pink cushion, its handle – a pink writhing snake.(…) It is a language that, without being in the least vulgar, is able to express the biological vulgarity of nature and the spiritual vulgarity of civilisation, so eagerly covered up by us with spiritualised make-believe. Moreover: we find to our surprise that we have fallen into a trap – the forms are generally neutral and innocent; the demons are in ourselves. Maria Pinińska-Bereś considers existence in its intimate dimension. Is there any other way at all? It is an existence stripped of external poses; or rather, all poses here are transparent: they serve not to veil, but to reveal. It is an existence to which one bears witness to oneself, or whispers in the confessional. Pinińska sees it with a sharp, piercing gaze: as it is, not as it should be according to various teachings. And it is doubly paradoxical: no longer animalistic and yet not quite spiritual; and already spiritual and yet animalistic. The latent suffering arises from the fact that our animalism is our addiction: we cannot and do not want to live without it. However, we would like this addiction to be spirituality. The artist’s gaze is clearly determined by gender, often highly irritating to a man. Agreement is difficult. The existences of both sexes develop side by side, united by the addictions given by nature, but at the same time separated by an impenetrable glass, as in the Double Existence presented in the exhibition The Double Existentiarium.

(Jerzy Hanusek, “Młot na egzystencjalistów,” Czas Krakowski, 16/17.03.1991)


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Woman in a Window/Kobieta w oknie, Galeria Wieża Ciśnień, Konin, early spring 1991, photo by L. Krutulski

In April, she returns to performance after a five-year break. She participates in the “The First Encounters of Active Art” in Konin, presenting Woman in a Window/Kobieta w oknie. It is a very short action. A small, glazed window hangs in the space. On its upper frame the word ‘woman’ is painted, on the lower frame the word ‘window’. Maria stands outside the window holding a pink letter ‘w’ cut out of cardboard. She applies it to various places on the glass, repeating the word “woman in” at the same time. When she finds the right place she speaks the whole title of the action and sticks the letter to the glass.

She considers her participation in the major exhibition “Polish Women Artists” at the National Museum in Warsaw an honour. A selection from this exhibition will be presented at The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC as ‘Voices of Freedom’. In a review of the Warsaw exhibition Dorota Jarecka comments:

This contemporary era is the most troublesome. One can see hesitation in the very selection of works. What is actually to be the subject of the exhibition – is it the work of those women who coquetish with rainbow colours, pink and white, or those who speak not only of ‘femininity’ but also of other perhaps more universal issues.

(Dorota Jarecka, “Without feminism/Bez feminizmu,” Gazeta Wyborcza, 7.10.91)

This type of commentary is an ever-present component of the reception of her work.

A solo exhibition at the BWA Gallery in Koszalin in November. Paweł Nikiel writes:

The exhibition consists of a dozen of ‘metaphorical objects’ – each of them tells a different story, but it is always a snippet of the most secret matter of woman’s thoughts. In the space of a few dozen square metres, hell and paradise are happening at once. There is something of painful vivisection in these seemingly tranquil works, a pink metaphor of the dreams of a woman, her fears and insecurities.  There is also passion, some powerful emotional charge ‘lurking’ beneath the appearance of a static arrangement of planes, soft folds, dreamy pink colour…. The artist proves that abstract art is precisely the perfect way to show what is always invisible. The Meadow of Your Body is one of the most beautiful erotic visions, an honest and endearingly direct exposure of feelings. The princess is trapped by powerlessness and lust. She is beautiful though it is not the beauty we are used to seeing. Here, in this exhibition, there are no bodies, no objects – only symbols of the soul, emotions stripped away, naked, so beautiful in their honesty. The Fifth Corner – a metaphor, a symbol, a mockery of sadness? It is like another face of the artist. Alongside the vastness of her sensitivity, there is also a touch of gentle cynicism, a certain detachment from the matters of this world. In The Fifth Corner time probably does not flow in the same way as it does  everywhere else. Perhaps it even goes backwards… Although the exhibited works are almost a manifesto of artistic feminism, I recommend the exhibition mainly to gentlemen. Even if you listen to your wives diligently all your life, you will never know more about the mysteries of a female psyche.  There is so much expression and, I emphasise again, HAPPINESS in Ms Bereś’s works that the exhibition is truly a profound experience – a walk into the “DREAM” from which everyone will emerge richer in something they will never be able to put into words. That’s where the pink magic happens…

(Paweł Nikiel, “Różowa magia albo gorące łzy kobiety,” Goniec Pomorski, 25.11.1991)


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, The Meadow of Your Body/Łąka twojego ciała, 1987, photo by M. Gardulski

In the introduction to the catalogue of the Koszalin exhibition, Jerzy Hanusek writes:

It is with a great deal of caution to state that Pinińska-Bereś’ work should be associated with feminist art. Critics often follow this easy trail. If by feminism we understand a social movement endowed with an ideology characterised by a specific interpretation of reality, unambiguously recognised reasons for the unsatisfactory state of affairs, set goals and methods of action – then I believe that Pinińska’s art is not feminist art. (…) It is no coincidence that Maria Pinińska’s work is so readily appropriated by the advocates of gender liberation. It is art par excellence existential; it expresses the truth about life; and for understandable reasons, especially about the life of a woman.  However, for the requirements of feminism, it expresses too much of this truth and, as a result, shatters any ideology into which it wants to be crammed. (…) Pinińska created a new sculptural language. Initially it was used to express content that could be verbalized only to a certain extent; there were points of contact between her language and the language we use every day. Enriched and refined over the years it liberated itself from its originally imposed functions. Its logic, grammar and semantics have taken on a life of their own. The ‘maturing of the form’ is how this process can be described. At its peak, the form no longer needs external content in order to express itself. It is out of the artist’s control: it begins to convey content that is a mystery to her. (…) The artist refers to works by artists such as Moore, Brancusi, Ernst, Dali, David and Ingres.  She has liberty to do so because she expresses entirely her own – form-related – content. These works are an enigma. Even a detailed description becomes inadequate, the message is virtually impossible to translate into words. Sometimes works that are an enigma at the moment of their creation reveal the principle of their existence years later, undergoing intellectual analysis. I think that Pinińska’s latest works will remain a mystery. It is indeed difficult to find the reason as to why they appear among existing things. The content cannot be the cause of the form, because in this case it is born of the form. Rather, it is the latter that has passed – and I know this sounds vague – from a passive state, submissive to the artist, to an active state. And now it reproduces itself by bringing into existence the potentialities it contains. To create a living form – this is the goal of the artist.

(Jerzy Hanusek, “Na tropie płonącej żyrafy,” 1991)


She continues the cycle of Windows: Window. De-construction with the Annex/Okno. De-konstrukcja z Aneksem, Window and Them/Okno i One, Window with Billows/Okno z Chmurkami, Window, De-construction of the Leaning Tower/Okno Dekonstrukcja Krzywej WieżyDancing Salome/Tańcząca Salome is another work created at that time. It will be destroyed after several presentations.

In February an individual exhibition at the Castle of the Pomeranian Princes in Szczecin.

In May, she participates in the exhibition “Presence III” at the National Museum in Poznań. Marek K. Wasilewski concludes:

The character of the entire exhibition, however, is provided by an ambiguous installation by Maria Pinińska-Bereś. She constructs perverse, almost kitsch forms that surprise the viewer with their mundanity and utilitarian context. The pink, soft props from the kitchen or the children’s room have elements of derision and parody while at the same time they are full of personal warmth and melancholy. Pinińska organises other works in the exhibition around her objects. She builds a particular tension between Jarema’s paintings and Gustowska’s composition. She proves to be the primary point of reference, the root and foundation on which this exhibition is based.

(Marek K. Wasilewski, “Miasto kobiet,” Poznański czas kultury, No. 5, VII/VIII, 1992)

In June and July, a solo exhibition at the BWA Gallery in Sandomierz. Leszek Danilczyk writes in the introduction to the catalogue:

It must be said that for all its originality and independence, emphasised by all commentators, Pinińska’s art, like all art, has its spheres of reference, among the most significant ones being surrealism. This is not because she draws on the Flaming Giraffe or on images and topos from which the Surrealists also drew (Mme Recamier, Charites). The essential affinity lies in the morphology of the works, in the peculiar tensions between abstraction and figuration, in the poetic situations resulting from the contact between the objects and the texts bearing the titles which brings them closer to the status of object-poéme. Above all, however, as it seems, in the creative process itself – in the role of the ‘internal model’, built both from the contents of the individual subconscious and the pictorial archetypes residing in the deep layers of culture.

In November, a small solo exhibition at the Starmach Gallery in Krakow.

She becomes a member of the Council of the Women’s Foundation “eFKa”.


Infanta. Rotunda with a Little BelI/Infantka. Rotunda z Dzwoneczkiem is created, a work that bears reference to the Rotundas of 30 years earlier. From a blue rotunda-shaped gown emerges a white cylindrical torso form ending in arms with hand stumps drooping down. An opening can be found in the gown resembling a firing hole in the medieval walls.  A hanging bell can be seen inside. The whole is placed on a wheeled blue panel. “The Infanta” was influenced by a visit to Vienna, where Maria was viewing Velasquez’s paintings in a museum. She poignantly felt the loneliness of a girl trapped in a corset with a bell around her neck.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Infanta. Rotunda with a Little Bell/Infantka. Rotunda z dzwoneczkiem, 1993/94, photo by M. Gardulski

She participates in the exhibition “Elements” at the State Art Gallery in Łódź (May- June) and at the Dom Artysty Plastyka in Warsaw (July), followed by the exhibition “Artists from Krakow” (August) at the Zachęta Gallery.

In July and August, a major solo exhibition of 27 works from the 1970s and 1980s in the Orangerie of the Orońsko Polish Sculpture Centre. According to the people who visit it this exhibition is phenomenal. But not many people see it, and no reviews appeared. In his introductory text to the exhibition, Tomasz Szczuka writes:

If one were to say that her art is feminist, one would immediately have to add, yes, but there is also perversity in it. Thanks to it, the artist distances herself from the tendency to think that there is male art and female art that is hostile to male art, as if the battle of the sexes took place here – in the field of art. (…)The label ‘Feminism’ is not necessary for Pinińska-Bereś. (…) The astonishing softness of her sculptures makes one want to take them in one’s mouth to taste them, and finally to tug with one’s teeth to relieve the sexual tension with which they seem to pulsate from within. This, however, is not necessary and, after the first close-up, proves impossible. Her works, existing in their pink world, intriguingly invite the viewer to touch them, but ‘say’ at the same time – noli me tangere.One should therefore walk around them in concentration, and look. Just look. Having calmed down ourselves, we begin to sneer at this first impression. The softness of these sculptures is not a lack of permanence. These sculptures are vulnerable, susceptible to injury, and therefore require care. In this state of care which the works expect from the viewer, one brings out a disinterestedness that allows to contemplate the work of art and, through it, to ask questions about one’s own identity. (…) It is a kind of theatre of memory, full of archetypal symbols which find expression here in the language of visual forms.

In October, she participates in the feminist symposium in Vienna ‘Feministiche Deutung von Zeichen und Symbolen am Beispiel Kunst’. She presents documentation of her oeuvre from the mid-1960s. However, she is met with disbelief and feels that she is suspected of mystification.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, S-core III (with a Comb)/Party-tura z grzebieniem, 1994, photo by M. Gardulski (National Museum in Wrocław)

S-core III (with a Comb)/Party-tura III (z grzebieniem) is created, a return to the motif from 20 years earlier and the beginning of an important group of works; also De-construction of the Leaning Tower I/De-konstrukcja Krzywej wieży I and Window. De-construction of the Leaning Tower II/ Okno. De-konstrukcja krzywej wieży II.

All the scores are ‘laid’ on metal stands, similar to those used in concert halls. In the S-core with a Comb, a fleshy brown book, made of covered sponge, lies open on the stand. At the point where the book is ‘stitched’, a pink cockscomb sticks out. De-construction of the Leaning Tower I is a two-element work. One is the tower, made of rolled sponge, brown on top and pink underneath. At the top one can see a little winding staircase. The tower is truncated. Its upper part lies next to it on a little wooden two-step staircase.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, De-constrution of the Leaning Tower I/Dekonstrukcja krzywej wieży I, 1994, photo from the family archive

In January, she travels to Germany and participates in the women’s exhibition and theoretical session ‘Haute Volee’ at the Rähnitzgasse Gallery in Dresden (other participants include Valie Export, Izabella Gustowska, Klaudia Schifferle, Eva-Maria Schön, Natalia LL, Leiko Ikemura). The official motto of the session becomes the title of the work “Cruise across the Seas and Oceans around the Table”.


Participation in important group exhibitions: “Ars Erotica”at the National Museum in Warsaw in February,  “Krakow Group 1932-1994” at the Zachęta Gallery in April and May, and  “Classics of Contemporary Art”at the National Museum in Warsaw,  June to August.


Deconstruction of the Leaning Tower II/Dekonstrukcja krzywej wieży II and S-cores/Party-tury: with Pendant/z wisiorkiem, with a Drop/z kroplą, the Book/księga come into being.

Deconstruction of the Leaning Tower II is a three-element work. One element is a massive, standing tower, constructed of twisted sponge, brown on the outside and pink on the inside. The tower is cut halfway down. Its upper part lies next to it supported by a little two-stepped step. The third form is also made of sponge and shaped like a fleshy cavity resembling a pink shell. It is placed on a low bronze pedestal.

Her individual exhibition at the Awangarda Gallery in Wrocław as part of the 6th International Triennale of Drawing and substantial presentation of works at the exhibition ‘Polish artists at international festivals’ at the National Museum in Wrocław.


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Woman with a Ladder/Kobieta z drabiną, Galeria Bunkier Sztuki, Kraków, 18.10.1995, photo by P. Chawiński

At the “10th International Krakow Meetings” in October, she performs the action Woman with a Ladder/Kobieta z drabiną. Karolina Skrzyniarz writes:

She appears like the Duchess at the Queen of Hearts’ tea party. A straw hat with a pink ribbon, a pink handbag, light sandals and … a ladder. From her pink handbag, the Duchess pulls out a mirror, paints her lips with pink lipstick, then climbs the ladder and writes ‘A Woman with a Ladder’ (round, feminine writing) on the white wall. After each word she adds feminine elements to the ladder, carefully tying a pink bow on its rungs. Finally, she hangs her straw hat on a nail clumsily hammered into the wall, smiles and communicates the contents of the inscription in three languages. She walks away. Pinińska’s performance is like a light feminine “phi!” being thrown at male art.

(Karolina Skrzyniarz, “Czy fale mózgowe autora mogą stymulować fale mózgowe publiczności,” Exit, 1995)

At the end of October, she participates in the Poznań Feminist Seminar at the Fractale Gallery in Poznań where she performs the action Woman not Only with a Ladder/Kobieta nie tylko z drabiną.


The jubilee of 40 years of her oeuvre happens almost unnoticed. The artist has not had a retrospective exhibition during these years. In an inventory Maria compiled, she lists 45 works in museum collections. The substantial body of her works can be found at the National Museum in Wrocław, smaller collections in Kraków, Warsaw, Poznań, Katowice and Chełm. From this perspective, however, the absences also become significant. A total absence of her works at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Łódź, at the Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle and a mere incidental presence at several group exhibitions at the Zachęta Gallery. In the comprehensive publication “Art from Poland 1945-1996”, published by the Zachęta Gallery in 1996 she is not mentioned. Her work is located outside the circle of interest of a large group of influential art critics, theoreticians and decision-makers. In the image of Polish art created by them, her work does not exist.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Window and Demons II/Okno i demony II, 1996, photo from the family archive

Another works from S-cores’ cycle come into being: with a little whip I/z biczykiem I, with a little whip II/z biczykiem II, with a tongue/z jęzorkiem. Also Window and Demons II/Okno i demony II.

She participates in the exhibition “Art in Poland: New directions” at the University at Buffalo Art Gallery, April-July.


In May, her first solo presentation at the Manhattan Gallery in Łódź. The text in the catalogue reads:

It is important to realise that the artist’s attitude has been shaped independently [of the feminist art current]. And not because of Poland’s isolation from the Western world, but simply because her work predates this movement. Although the beginning of feminist art is considered to be 1969 when the group Women Artists in Revolution was founded in the United States, the real and visible development of feminist art did not occur until the 1970s. In Europe, the first feminist art exhibition took place in 1971. The ‘Woman’s art’ manifesto by Valie Export, a prominent figure in this trend, was published in 1973, while in Poland the first exhibition of feminist art – organised by Natalia LL – took place in 1978. We should also add that, unlike the group presentations of Western women artists, Pinińska acted in absolute isolation and without any support; in a society where strong religious prudery was reinforced by the moral asceticism preached by the communist regime at that time. The artist’s worldview, formulated in general terms, her historical and sociological interpretations of past and present reality – all of it indicates that the fundamental ideas of the feminist movement are fully accepted by Pinińska. Her artistic work, however, does not stem from general judgements, but from intimate experiences which in their concreteness are devoid of unambiguous meaning. The traces of the ambiguity of the matter of experiences are reflected in the artist’s works. Pinińska intuitively defends her art from being subordinated to ideology, even her own. The supremacy of art over other areas of life is absolute for the artist. (…) It should be emphasised that all of the artist’s works are characterised by extremely sophisticated formal solutions, being the result of a carefully and comprehensively developed concept of the work. The realisation of a work is sometimes preceded by numerous drawings and sketches. The pink colour, which is associated with cheap tenderness and the mundanity of the equipment that appears should not deceive us in this respect. There are artists who consciously refer to kitsch in their work. There is a vast abyss separating Pinińska from it. (…) The artist’s work developed for decades outside the mainstream of prestigious promotion. It remained outside the circle of interest of the decision-makers who shaped the image of Polish art at home and abroad. The value of this art has only recently begun to be more widely appreciated. This can be illustrated by the fact that in 1994, Pinińska’s works were included in the exhibition “Classics of Modernity” organised by the National Museum in Warsaw. I believe that the relevance of her art will continue to grow.

(Jerzy Hanusek, “Maria Pinińska-Bereś,” 1994)

Małgorzata Kociec concludes her review of the Łódź exhibition:

At first it may seem that the works of the Krakow artist are a kind of creative transformation of such a seemingly mundane object as a cushion. The underlying sculptures do not limit viewers to mere visual contact, but encourage them to touch, hug or even snuggle into the soft expanse. Moreover, and this is extremely rare in this field, they exude colours, and what colours: sweet pastel colours – bright pinks and purples, warm whites. It is easy to fall into the trap of this cosy atmosphere because a closer look at Pinińska’s works brings out their true, much less sugary face. The soft forms of these creations (sometimes enriched with everyday objects) are arranged in often amusing, artistic anecdotes, not devoid of, but rather full of erotic symbols and overtones (starting with the aforementioned colour scheme). Her art, I believe, has a satirical aspect – made even more surprising and acute by its form. (…) Many claim that Pinińska-Bereś’s art caused quite a stir in the artistic circles beyond the ocean. A paradox, then, is the artist’s relatively low profile in her home country.

(Małgorzata Kociec, “Na przełomie sezonów,” Informator Kulturalny, Łódź, X 1996)


Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Actions for Kitchen Utensils/Działania na przyrządy kuchenne, Galeria Bielska BWA, September 1996, photo from the family archive

In September, she participates in the exhibition “Woman about Woman” at the BWA Gallery in Bielsko-Biała. As part of the exhibition the artist performs the action Action for Kitchen Utensils/Działania na przyrządy kuchenne. Wearing a straw hat on her head she is beating egg whites with a whisk in a glass container, adding pink pigment. When the foam is ready, she removes the hat, places it on a white tablecloth, holds the artificial flower unfastened from it with her teeth and decorates the hat with foam. She applies a portion of the foam to the bottom of the hat with a spoon and then puts blobs on the brim. Finally, she signs the tablecloth with lipstick.

Jolanta Ciesielska writes in the catalogue:

Andrzej Turowski in his essay “Dyskurs o uniwersalizmie/ A Discourse on the Universal” he mentions most outstanding female artists of the Polish post-war art scene: Hanna Rudzka-Cybisowa. Maria Jarema, Erna Rosenstein, Jadwiga Maziarska, Jadwiga Kraupe-Świderska, Alina Szapocznikow, Barbara Zbrożyna, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Ewa Kuryluk. I would complete the list with such personalities as Teresa Tyszkiewicz, Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Teresa Pągowska, Wanda Gołkowska, Natalia LL, Izabella Gustowska, Zofia Kulik, Teresa Murak or Barbara Falender.

Dorota Jarecka, commenting on the exhibition, writes:

There is female art in the sense that there is male art, that is, one created by women, the other by men. Do they have any fixed features that distinguish them from each other? One could risk saying that as far as women’s art is concerned if it has any recurring features that are visible at first glance  these are similar weaknesses. The same is probably true for men. But women’s art does not exist in the sense that what is good in art is neither feminine nor masculine. Rather, what is good is not justified by gender. There are generally two attitudes featured in the exhibition. One is Zarzycka’s caricatured tormenting search for the self, the question of one’s own femininity. Such an attitude, if it is not self-ironic, is rather doomed to failure. Interestingly, it takes different forms, from extreme sweetness to extreme brutalism. Another attitude involves stepping outside the circle of issues delineated by ‘identity’ and gender. The works of Zofia Kulik and Natalia Lach-Lachowicz are examples of this attitude. Both artists practice black-and-white photo by ography and both transgress the area of strictly feminine issues…

(Dorota Jarecka, “Dobre nie musi mieć płci,” Gazeta Wyborcza, 23.09.1996)

At the May Salon of Painting and Sculpture at the Palace of Art in Krakow, she receives the gold medal of the T.P.S.P. (Society of the Friends of Fine Arts)

Krystyna Czerni realises a film on the work of Maria Pinińska-Bereś as part of the series “Album of Krakow Art”.



Infanta with a Little Bell – the Cage/Infantka z dzwoneczkiem – klatka, Window with Collection/Okno z kolekcją, Window – Interrupted Continuum/Okno przerwane continuum are created. Maria is not entirely satisfied with Infanta. Rotunda with a Little Bell. She decides to take up the subject again. She makes a similar form, but from welded wire. In the centre of the cage she hangs a bell. The cage stands on a platform on wheels. The wire sculpture is an entirely new technique in her work.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Infanta with a Little Bell – the Cage/Infantka z dzwoneczkiem. Klatka, 1997, photo by M. Gardulski

In November, after an interval of 24 years, a solo exhibition again in Warsaw, at the Studio Gallery. Judging by the reaction of the daily press, the exhibition hardly gets noticed. A few months later, Krystyna Czerni writes:

Pinińska, although considered by critics to be a precursor of Polish feminism (Psychofurniture/ Psychomebelki from the 1970s), has long since departed from stereotypes; today there is too much self-irony and sarcasm in her works to be dismissed with any label. “Femininity” in this art is consciously created, as is its neat infantilisation – carefully calligraphed pink lettering, as if from a maiden’s album. In the discussion on whether the artist – on the way to universal truths – should transcend her/his own conditions, e.g. reject the ballast of gender, or, on the contrary, make them her/his strength – Pinińska deliberately chooses the latter. (…) Pinińska’s works (Erotic Swaddling Blanket, The Meadow of Your Body) are among the few that can speak of intimacy boldly and with a wink, expressing both the tenderness and the ridiculousness of erotic situations – without ever crossing the border of vulgarity. The play of associations here is not shocking but gratifying – yet this work was met with accusations of depravity and promiscuity, and even acts of aggression. Communism was essentially prudish – that is why Pinińska’s pink snakes, sensuous lips and papier mâché breasts, all the love making metaphors, must have irritated, as did Kalina Jędrusik’s defiant cleavage. Pinińska’s art managed to win a space of freedom for imagination unfettered by the corset of convention because it was only a margin, a niche for a narrow group of avant-garde amateurs.

(Krystyna Czerni, “Skrawki życia,”Tygodnik Powszechny 13, 29.03.1998)



Subsequent S-cores: with a comb II/z grzebieniem II, with a snake/z wężem are created. The artist begins the multipart work Infanta’s Bestiarium/Bestiarium Infantki. It is to include animal cages made of wire. She creates Infanta’s Parrot/Papuga Infantki and Infanta’s Dog/Pies Infantki and makes sketches for Infanta’s Little Fish/Rybka Infantki, Infanta’s Lizards/Jaszczurka Infantki/” and Infanta’s Pony/Kucyk Infantki, as well as a drawing planned in the same technique of The She-Wolf with Cubs/Wilczyca z młodymi.

In May, sudden symptoms of a serious illness are manifested, followed by a life-saving surgery.

In June, presentation of her 13 works at the exhibition “Walking on the Earth”, at the Musee d’Histoire Vivante in Montreuil, France, as part of a collaboration with the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery in Krakow.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Infanta’s Bestiarium/Bestiarium Infantki, 1999, photo by M. Węgrzyn


She dies in September.

In his speech at the cemetery in Batowice on 26th April Zbigniew Warpechowski said:

I have the great honour of saying a farewell to a great Polish artist, our colleague from the Krakow Group, Maria Pinińska-Bereś. Apart from sadness and grief at the passing away of the most outstanding Polish sculptor, it will be difficult for me to refrain from expressing my anger and irritation at what happened to her on the part of people influencing cultural policy in Krakow, artistic circles and those who prey on art.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś was a person with too much culture for the times in which she lived. She was unable and probably also unwilling to claim her rightful place in art. Thus, in her family life with Jerzy Bereś, she accepted with inexpressible nobility, voluntarily, with humility and dignity, a supporting role to her brilliant husband. I admit with shame that we treated this as a natural thing, mechanically accepting this division of roles.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś was a lady in the best sense of this word, both by birth and in life and art. She was the first lady of Polish sculpture, as all who are competent must admit. Even participating in several exhibitions under the feminist banner, she maintained her distinctiveness and class as a woman and artist. Maria was a professional and a perfectionist down to the smallest detail.

Maria Pinińska-Bereś was an avant-garde artist. Her Rotundas, exhibited in 1960 were breathtakingly astonishing in their innovativeness of form, as well as the combination of materials used (concrete, quilt, chain, colour) unprecedented in the world at the time.

Her artistic refinement and avant-gardism were responsible for the total hatred of her by the mediocrities associated with the Academy of Fine Arts and the cultural establishment that they influenced. The absence of their representatives at the funeral is a clear evidence of this. Not a minute was devoted to an artist of this calibre in a Krakow television programme. She was not offered a seminar for the students of art history at the Jagiellonian University or a lecture for the students of the Academy of Fine Arts where she studied in the studio of the great master Xawery Dunikowski.

The artists engaged in an open dialogue with world art are accused of ‘bolshevism’ by the rector of this academy. As if to confirm this, in the opposite direction, at the suggestion of sculpture students to invite Jerzy Bereś to a single meeting with them, their professor threatened to expel them from the academy. This illustrates the state of culture in Krakow.

Krakow has become a bastion of opportunism, ignorance and the resulting arrogance of the coryphaeums of culture.

There was not enough room in the Avenue of Merit for Maria Pinińska-Bereś. Knowing the relativity of merit, perhaps this is a good thing.

The premature death of Maria Pinińska-Bereś is a tragic and significant event because a very important and historically indisputable part of the culture of the city of Krakow died with Maria.

Forgive us Maria.




author of the timeline: Jerzy Hanusek

traslated by Małogorzata Sady

copyright Fundacja im. Marii Pinińskiej-Bereś i Jerzego Beresia, 2022 | made by studio widok