Forbidden Art at University of Michigan-Dearborn

Welcome to the information page for our partnership with the University of Michigan-Dearborn, for Forbidden Art, presented in North America by The Polish Mission in exclusive cooperation with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum of Poland.  Please check this page frequently, since updates and related media will be posted here as they come!

Forbidden Art was created by the Collections Department of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum of Poland.  It features twenty examples of art created by inmates, all of which are most rare and fragile.  After premiering at the Galeria of The Polish Mission of the Orchard Lake Schools in 2012, project manager JJ Przewozniak with the support of the Polish Mission team has coordinated showings at premier location across the US, including Park East Synagogue, UCLA, the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, and the United Nations.  Please join us for the 15th exhibition of Forbidden Art in the United States at the University of Michigan-Dearborn!

Location: The Alfred Berkowitz Gallery | Mardigian Library, U-M Dearborn | 4901 Evergreen Road | Dearborn, MI 48128

Website: click here

“Forbidden Art: Illegal Works by Concentration Camp Prisoners”
September 18 – December 23 (closes at noon)

Opening Reception: Sunday, September 18, 2:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Featured Guest Speaker: Teresa Wontor-Cichy, Research Center at Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum, will begin at 2:15 p.m.

All guests should proceed to the 2nd floor of the Mardigian Library at 2:00 p.m. to hear the featured guest speaker before viewing the exhibition in the gallery.

Reception is free to the public. Complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres provided.
The reception is free and open to all.  Click here to register.
Forbidden Art tells the emotional story of the illegal artwork created by concentration camp prisoners during WWII. The Alfred Berkowitz Gallery is honored to bring this powerful exhibition, organized by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and The Polish Mission of the Orchard Lake Schools, to the Dearborn community.
Our imagination of life in Nazi concentration camps is dominated by darkness, delineated by concepts difficult to fully comprehend: slave labor, extreme hunger, roundups, selection, and overwhelming, and after a while normalized, death. The Forbidden Art exhibition brings viewers a new perspective on concentration camp violence. It speaks to us, from the most authentic source, about the power of the human spirit and the ability to endure in the face of abominable conditions.

The exhibition, which is divided into two themes, features high quality reproductions of twenty artworks, many created under the threat of death. The first theme gives viewers a glimpse of daily camp life, and the remaining pieces invite reflection on the role of art as a mental escape. In this sense, art became a survival strategy. It could be a mental respite, a tool for imagining a different world, a gift of appreciation for human kindness that one experienced in a camp, or a way to build or change one’s social position. Art was also a way to document the present world as a testimony and a challenge to the world that would come after. Some of the work exhibited was produced by amateurs and some was created by accomplished artists who continued haunting their audiences with powerful images after the war.

Most of the works reflect the desperate conditions under which they were created, the lack of supplies, and the human need for creative expression to sustain one’s spirit. Our understanding of art is challenged while viewing these illegal works; art ceases to be only a reflection of life, but rather becomes life.

Forbidden Art will be on view from September 18 to December 23 (noon). Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00-5:00. The exhibition opening reception will be held from 2:00-6:00 P.M. on Sunday, September 18th. Featured Guest Speaker: Teresa Wontor-Cichy, Research Expert from the Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum, will begin at 2:15 on the 2nd floor of the library. Reception is free to the public. Complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres provided.

Additional gallery presentations and installations include:

  • October 13 (6:00 – 8:00 p.m.): “Memory and Memorialization at Auschwitz,” presentation by Jonathan Huener, associate professor of history, University of Vermont
  • October 25 (6:00 – 8:00 p.m.): “Musical Remembrances of Love and Death from Auschwitz-Birkenau,” presentation by Barbara Milewski, associate professor of music, Swarthmore College
  • Visual artist Wojtek Sawa will present his installation piece The Walls Speak in the Mardigian Library. This powerful work illustrates the stories of Polish children placed in subhuman circumstances during World War II. Sawa will teach a student workshop on the gathering, processing, and interpreting of oral histories. (dates TBD)

— Anna Muller, Assistant Professor of Social Sciences, UM-Dearborn