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Wilhelm Sasnal

Wilhelm Sasnal

Polish painter
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Polish painter
Countries Poland
Occupations Painter
Gender male
Birth 29 December 1972 (Tarnów)
Education Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts
The details

Wilhelm Sasnal (born December 29, 1972) is a Polish painter, photographer, and filmmaker. Sasnal received his diploma of painting in 1999 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków.

Early life and career

Wilhelm Sasnal was born in Tarnów, Poland, in 1972. He studied architecture for two years at the Polytechnic, Kraków, beginning in 1992, and then became a painting student at the Akademia Sztuk Pięknych w Krakowie, Poland. While there, he helped form an artist's collective that exhibited together as the Ładnie Group until 2000. Ironically named after the Polish word meaning "pretty" or "nice," the members made paintings of their contemporary, often banal surroundings, using a deskilled aesthetic that countered the style valued by their instructors. Sasnal finished his studies in 1999, and then worked briefly for advertising companies in Kraków while also making paintings, graphic novels (his strips are regularly published in "Machina" and "Przekroj", two Polish periodicals), photographs, and films.


Sasnal produces pencil drawings, ink drawings, photographs, videos and paintings. In his art he employs a variety of media and cultivates a non-uniform practice.

Sasnal is primarily a painter. He paints a wide variety of subjects: More or less banal everyday objects, portraits of historical figures, views of his home town Cracow, snapshots of friends and family members and very often existing images from the internet or mass media are his starting point. Other sources include Art Spiegelman's 1973 graphic Holocaust novel Maus, and stills from Claude Lanzmann's 1985 documentary Shoah as source material. Even if, over the years, one can make out a number of overarching themes, there are always new paintings that shift the emphases and connections once again. The same is true of his painting style. His approach is unpredictable and his methods range from graphic reduction and a pointedly two-dimensional, illustration-oriented style to seemingly autonomous gestures with brush and paint. Like Neo Rauch, however, Sasnal makes the grip of the Communist era on the post-Communist imagination his subject.

While painting is still at the centre of Sasnal’s work, he has also increasingly turned to photography and film in recent years. The video work The Band (2002) was made during a live performance of indie rock band Sonic Youth. A 2007 piece is a product many times removed from the 1961 Polish movie on which it is based – a fictionalized account of a historical event in which a railway worker accidentally sold industrial methyl alcohol as vodka, causing widespread illness, blindness and death. The 16-mm film projection Untitled (2007) is based on found-footage from the late 1970s of Elvis Presley. Swiniopas (Swineherd) (2008), his first ever feature-length film, is an adaptation of an 1842 Hans Christian Andersen fairytale of the same name yet radically deviates from the original. Shot in black and white, Sasnal’s version is set in bleak, rural Poland. It concerns a swineherd who smuggles letters back and forth between a farmer’s daughter and her lesbian lover. Also in 2008, Sasnal caused controversy in Scotland with his film The Other Church, which focused on the brutal murder of the Polish student Angelika Kluk in Glasgow.

In September 2011, Sasnal selected a playlist of music that inspires him in his work. "I always listen to music when I make art. I do about 30 minutes of work and then have a break between records. The link is that they are all very simple songs, classical in structure – from Elvis Presley to Slayer – and that’s what I like about them. Some of them ended up in my films."

Selected exhibitions

Solo Exhibitions


Wilhelm Sasnal, Whitechapel Gallery, London, England


Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, Switzerland

Centro de Arte Contemporanea, Málaga, Spain

Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen K21, Düsseldorf, Germany

Sadie Coles HQ, London, England


Wilhelm Sasnal. Lata walki / Years of Struggle, Galleria Civica di Arte Contemporanea, Trento, Italy (Travelling Exhibition)


Wilhelm Sasnal. Lata walki / Years of Struggle, Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland (Travelling Exhibition)

Wilhelm Sasnal. Untitled, Swiss Institute, New York, New York, United States

Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, Switzerland

Boredom, Johnen Galerie, Berlin, Germany


Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland

Sadie Coles HQ, London, UK

At the very Center of Attention, Part 10: Wilhelm Sasnal, Center of Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland

Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, Poland

Wilhelm Sasnal. Painting and Films, Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, Netherlands

Ist das Leben nicht schön? Gruppenaustellung in 4 Kapiteln, Kapitel 2: Wilhelm Sasnal, Kunstverein Frankfurt, Germany


Matrix 219, UC Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley CA, USA

Anton Kern Gallery, New York NY, USA

Wilhelm SAsnal. Chinati Artist in Residence, The Locker Plant, Marfa TX, USA


The Band, Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, Switzerland

Camden Arts Centre, London, UK

Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich, Germany

ZAWA SROD, Galerie Johnen und Schöttle, Cologne, Germany

Map Trap, Galerie Raster, Warsaw, Poland


Kunstverein Münster, Germany

Kunsthalle Zürich, Switzerland

Sadie Coles HQ, London, UK

Wilhelm Sasnal - Monika Sosnowska, Galleria Laura Pecci, Milan, Italy

Anton Kern Gallery, New York NY, USA

Interventions: Wilhelm Sasnal, Museum van Hedendaagsekunst, Antwerp, Belgium

WISLA, Sommer Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, Israel


Galerie Johnen und Schöttle, Cologne, Germany

Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, Poland

Parel, Amsterdam, Netherlands

BWA Gallery, Zielona Gora, Poland


Cars and Men, Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, Poland

Everyday Life in Poland between 1999 and 2001, Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, Poland


Board Game, Galeria Potocka, Cracow, Poland


The Hundred Pieces, Galeria Zderzak, Cracow, Poland

The Crowd, billboards of Galleria Otwarta, Cracow, Poland

Painting, CCA Ujadowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland

Group Exhibitions


Abstraction + Warhol, Woxart, Prague, Czech Republic

Something Else!!! Selected Works from the Collection of the SMAK, Gent, Museo d' Arte Provincia di Nuoro, Nuoro, Italy

Invasion of Sound. Music and the Visual Arts, Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland


Sasnal's art work is in collections of such institutions as Guggenheim Saatchi Gallery and Tate Modern in London and Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.


He is the 2006 winner of the Vincent van Gogh Biennial Award for Contemporary Art in Europe 2006.

Art market

Records for his works were set at Phillips de Pury & Company in March 2006 and at Christie’s (New York) Post-War and Contemporary Art sale in May 2007.


2008 Life on Mars, the 2008 Carnegie International [1]

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