Private. Kantor’s Theatrical Costumes

An exhibition of Tadeusz Kantor’s theatrical costumes from the Cricoteka collection.

Tadeusz Kantor by Daniel SimpsonCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

Objects and costumes must be works of art, not decoration which is discarded once it has been used. This is what makes the Cricot 2 Theatre a unique and purely artistic phenomenon – Tadeusz Kantor

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2022) by Szymon SokolowskiCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

The costumes reflect the ideas explored by the artist in his Cricot 2 Theatre – from its performances inspired by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s plays, via productions of the Theatre of Death, to costumes from Kantor’s last spectacle Today Is My Birthday.

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2022) by Szymon SokolowskiCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

Assembled by the artist himself, the Cricoteka collection forms an invaluable archive documenting every stage in Kantor’s oeuvre.

Tadeusz Kantor (1988) by Daniel SimpsonCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

The Making of the Collection

Toying with the idea of the Cricot 2 Museum, he began to organise his achievement in theatre: he defined particular stages of its development, raised the status of the components of stage design proclaiming them as works of art and produced their replicas, which have not survived

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2022) by Szymon SokolowskiCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

The Collection of Costumes at Cricoteka

The collection at Cricoteka contains 248 costumes. There are complete costumes, even groups of costumes, as well as single items: shoes, headpieces, braces, puttees and small pieces of clothing.

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2022) by Szymon SokolowskiCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

Cricoteka also has such items as actors’ personal accessories – small wooden boxes with mirrors, holding private make-up tools, spare buttons, rubber bands and sewing kit for mending.

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2022) by Szymon SokolowskiCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

The collection represents a variegated set with some brightly coloured pieces and ones of subdued colours, single-layered and multi-layered, one-piece and multi-piece, ornamental and inspired by everyday life.

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2022) by Grzegorz MartCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

Each costume tells a different story about interpreting roles and constructing the space on stage.

Sewing machine (2022) by Grzegorz MartCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

The Costume beside the Actor

Kantor viewed theatrical costumes as equal to things, objects and actors. There were no traditional patterns for Kantor’s costumes. Ludwik Witek, a costume maker, sewed costumes using sketches and drawings made by the artist and his explanations of particular characters.

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2022) by Szymon SokolowskiCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

Kantor used natural and synthetic fabrics, including linen, cotton, felt, wool, flannel, rubber, polyamide fabrics and fake leather. In the second half of the 1980s, the artist began using ready-made garments.

An advert in a newspaper asking for articles of clothing (2022) by Justyna DrońCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

He would put an advert in a newspaper asking for articles of clothing for a new production and purchase tailcoats, frock coats, bowler hats or suits from private people to use them as costumes.

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2022) by Szymon SokołowskiCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

The Costume as Sculpture

Kantor broke with the traditional form and function of the costume. Some costumes were turned into autonomous works of art. Others, originally used at the Cricot 2 Theatre, were put on frames acquiring an almost sculptural status.

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2018) by Grzegorz MartCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

The costume as a form was meant to defy representation. One of such costumes, created for Underaged, was described by Kantor as a “sculpture on canvas.”

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2022) by Szymon SokolowskiCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

Costumes Made Not Only of Fabric

The first performance of Where Are The Snows of Yesteryear took place at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, inaugurating the exhibition Cricot 2 Theatre and Its Artist.  The costumes used in this cricotage were predominantly made of paper.

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2022) by Szymon SokolowskiCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

Jack Melkonian, a collector and Kantor’s friend, gave the artist a paper roll for his drawings and drafts. It turned out, however, that the paper was waxed and useless for drawing. The director decided to use it in his new theatrical project.

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2020) by Z. Prokop, K. KucmaCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

Bio-object

A special rank was given to those costumes that united the actor’s body with an object – such as Man with a Board or Woman behind the Window. It was as though objects and the actor’s body had been fused into one, as though they became an anatomical extension to the human.

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2022) by Szymon SokolowskiCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

An object affected the way an actor moved and acted. For example, Milionaire’s Shoes generated a sense of mobility, while in fact they immobilised the person wearing them.

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2022) by Szymon SokolowskiCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

Mannequins

Marionettes and mannequins played an important role in Kantor’s work. Figures with wax faces and hands constituted a transition stage between the living actor and his or her dummy. Attached to costumes, mannequins were the premonition of death.

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2020) by Szymon SokolowskiCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

On the other hand, they made a transgression of it possible. Kantor believed that life was best represented when contrasted with death. In his work, mannequins constituted a counterpoise to life embodied by actors.

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2022) by Grzegorz MartCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

Abandoning the traditional mode of display, the exhibition Private. Kantor’s Theatrical Costumes offers a very personal and individual account of presence, corporeality and identity as none of the costumes makes sense without the context of the body that wore it.

Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes, Szymon Sokolowski, 2022, From the collection of: Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA
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Kantor`s Theatrical Costumes (2022) by Aleksandra Zajdel-Cyrulik, Marysia MarkowskaCentre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

Credits: Story

An exhibition of the Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor.
Curators: Justyna Droń, Bogdan Renczyński
Editor of the catalogue: Magdalena Link-Lenczowska
Images: Grzegorz Mart, Daniel Simpson, Szymon Sokołowski

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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