Photographing sport is a rewarding task, though the pictures in Sports in the City might come as a surprise. Rafał Wilk’s exhibition does not portray Warsaw’s sporting celebrities. This is no chronicle of achievements: eminent athletic contests or epic football, basketball and boxing matches. There are no heroes of the collective imagination on show here. This view of Warsaw sport captures other, lesser-known, yet fascinating aspects.
Rafał Wilk performs a dual role, acting as both photographer and historian for his selection of old photographs. His work blends pictures from over a century ago with contemporary shots. Elegant in bowler hats, moustachioed cyclists from an angling club gaze out at us from an archival image, intriguingly juxtaposed with a dynamic colour still of a girl playing American football.
The exhibition presents little-known disciplines which are rarely practised today: century-old photographs from tug-of-war, angling, motorcycle-drawn cycle racing, and motorcycle football competitions. Have younger Varsovians ever watched ski-jumping down Agrykola Street or in Mokotów? Have they ever seen a water polo match played in a Warsaw lake? The pictures chosen for display demonstrate just how enthusiastic the capital’s residents used to be about such sports.
The exhibition ponders the popularity and durability of various disciplines. Can players of deck tennis, lacrosse or retro-football ever dream of fame and stardom? Will these physical activities with their own sets of rules withstand the test of time? Or will they merely feature in similar exhibitions in decades to come?
Artist: Rafał Wilk
Curator: Marta Czyż
Support: Robert Gawkowski
Cooperation: Polskie Towarzystwo Ringo (Mariusz Wangryn, Krystyna Anioł-Strzyżewska), Klub Miłośników Polonii Warszawa, Koło Miłośników Historii Polonii Warszawa, Warszawskie Towarzystwo Cyklistów, Warsaw Sirens, Grom Warszawa, UKS Mazowia Synchro, WKS Śmigły Wilno (Retro Liga), Leszek Fidusiewicz, Bartosz Bajerski, Agnieszka Bieniek, Tomasz Płonka