Eastern Promises, T Travel Fall 2010

When David Lynch and Frank Gehry made headlines last year for their involvement in two multimillion-dollar cultural centers in the economically downtrodden city of Lodz, Poland, confusion ran high. What could they possibly see in the so-called Manchester of Poland? In fact, Lodz is undergoing something of a creative rebirth. The city has begun turning its 19th-century textile buildings into new-economy hubs — a case in point is the Manufaktura complex (Ogrodowa Street), home to a museum and the city’s first upscale design hotel, Andel’s. Lodz is also financing cultural festivals and programs aimed at retaining local art school grads, and once a planned high-speed rail slashes the Warsaw commute to 35 minutes, they’ll have one more reason to stay put.

ART In 1931, Wladyslaw Strzeminski and his circle of Polish avant-gardists founded the Muzeum Sztuki (Wieckowskiego 36) — the world’s second modern-art institution, after MoMA. It now puts on shows of recent work (its permanent collection is at Manufaktura), including next month’s survey of the painter Zbigniew Rogalski. The original building includes the Mondrian-inspired Neoplastic Room and the futuristic-looking MS Café, designed in 2008 by the local architects Wunderteam. The Fokus Lodz Biennial (biennalelodz.pl), curated in part by the local art legend Ryszard Wasko, will fill the rest of the city’s public art spaces until mid-October. For contemporary Polish art year-round, there’s Atlas Sztuki (Piotrkowska 114), a white-box gallery in a former Jewish meat market.

FILM Since filming parts of “Inland Empire” in Lodz, David Lynch has spearheaded a plan for a new cultural center bearing his name at the old EC1 power station. The other film hub, the Frank Gehry-designed Camerimage Center, is currently stalled — you can buy a pair of EC1 jeans to support the cause — but the city’s cinematic legacy is always close at hand. The Lodz Filmowa project shows movies shot in the city at the actual filming location.

FASHION AND DESIGN Though Lodz’s art academy has the best fashion school in the country (Polish fashion week is here), its graduates usually relocate to Warsaw. And that was the only place you could buy their clothes until the Arkana Concept Store (Wieckowskiego 18) opened in Lodz last fall, stocking pieces by the likes of Justyna Chrabelska and Sylwester Krupinski. This October, fashion week overlaps with the fourth annual Lodz Design festival; one of its curators is the Wroclaw-based rising star Oskar Zieta, whose inflated metal stools look like Mylar balloons. The Lodz Art Center, which is currently helping to turn an empty factory into a studio facility called the Art Inkubator, is producing the festival. Other local work is for sale at Fruits and Vegetables (Traugutta 9), a new cafe that also holds group discussions led by architects and writers.


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