artists & participants


press release

The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw opens its new premises on the banks of the Vistula River with the exhibition The Beguiling Siren Is Thy Crest. This exhibition delves into the cultural connotations of Warsaw’s iconic symbol—the city’s coat of arms, “Syrena,” is decorated with an insignia of a woman with a fishtail, wielding a sword and shield—and its universality in the context of a modern urban identity. Those visiting the newly opened pavilion can view historical materials—works of art and artefacts—as well as pieces by contemporary artists inspired by the mythological siren.

The title of the exhibition is a quote from a poem by Cyprian Kamil Norwid (one of the great Polish Romantic poets), who addresses Warsaw by means of a personal dedication (“capital of my youth…”), and formulates a reminder that the mythological siren was originally a dangerous hybrid of a human and animal, capable of luring sailors to their doom. The poet invokes the origins of Warsaw’s coat of arms to explain his multifaceted relationship with the city.

The relocation of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw to the banks of the Vistula, near the iconic monument of the Warsaw “Syrena” by Ludwika Nitschowa, presents an opportunity to take a closer look at this seemingly familiar hybrid. In recent years the city’s inhabitants have begun to rediscover the river. Boulevards, envisioned by 19th century writers, have started to appear on its left bank, while a path through the wilderness runs along the right—something the city is rightly proud of.

A retelling of themes connected with the siren is an unconventional answer to the mounting crisis of a language detached from reality, as well as the appropriation, reduction, and contortion of symbols themselves. The exhibition consists of nearly 150 works by artists both Polish and international, historical objects, and a selection of documents and manuscripts concerning Warsaw’s coat of arms. The collected iconographic material portrays the symbol’s rich history, from antiquity to modern times.

The exhibition features the works of the following artists: Korakrit Arunanondchai, Evelyne Axell, Alex Baczyński, Zdzisław Beksiński, Louise Bourgeois, Eugène Brands, Agnieszka Brzeżańska, Bernard Buffet, Claude Cahun, Liz Craft, Edith Dekyndt, Christian Dietrich, Leo Dohmen, Drexcyia and Abdul Qadim Haqq, Elmgreen & Dragset, Leonor Fini, Ellen Gallagher, Malarz Goltyr, Justyna Górowska, Zdzisław Jasiński, Dorota Jurczak, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Birgit Jürgenssen, Tobias Kaspar, Marek Kijewski, Aldona Kopkiewicz and Mateusz Kula, Łukasz Korolkiewicz, Gina Litherland, Ma Liuming, Jacek Malczewski, Witek Orski, Sylvia Palacios Whitman, Pablo Picasso, Krzysztof Pijarski, Aleka Polis, Agnieszka Polska, Karol Radziszewski, Joanna Rajkowska, Carol Rama, Erna Rosenstein, Tejal Shah, Franciszek Siedlecki, Tomasz Sikorski, Penny Slinger, Juliana Snapper, Franz von Stuck, project “Warsaw’s Sirens” (Jacek Łagowski, Danuta Matloch, Katarzyna Opara, Aleksandra Schönthaler), Alina Szapocznikow, Stanisław Szukalski, Jerzy Bohdan Szumczyk, Wacław Szymanowski, Dorothea Tanning, Wolfgang Tillmans, Tunga, Anna Uddenberg, Aleksandra Waliszewska, Wojciech Wilczyk, Hannah Wilke, Ming Wong, Marcelo Zammenhoff, Anna Zaradny, Artur Żmijewski

The exhibition The Beguiling Siren Is Thy Crest is curated by Joanna Mytkowska and Marta Dziewańska, together with Sebastian Cichocki, Tomasz Fudala, Robert Jarosz, Magdalena Lipska, Paweł Nowożycki, Łukasz Ronduda, and Natalia Sielewicz.