Gdynia and Tel Aviv are almost 3,000 kilometres away and yet, despite the distance between them, the two cities are strikingly similar. Both were founded in the early 20th century and quickly became modern seaside resorts and ports. Both boast characteristic modernist architecture. It turns out they also share a common Polish-Jewish history. At the Gdynia – Tel-Aviv temporary exhibition visitors will get acquainted with both the similarities between the two cities and the unique features that make each one so special.
With the technological progress and rapid social change of the early 20th century, people sought new places to live that would respond to the modern era. “One can spot the white cities of tomorrow through the large windows of a modern twentieth-century home,” they wrote at the time. The white colour with regard to modernist cities refers to the smooth, bright, glazed wall of a modern building. Tel-Aviv and Gdynia have been dubbed “white cities” since their very onset for a reason. Both cities also have colours in common: light blue corresponding to the shade of the sea, and yellow—the colour of the sun and sand on the beach.
We will take you on a journey through these seaside cities raised on the dunes in the first decades of the 20th century. They both played major roles in the history of Israel and Poland respectively. Tel Aviv, the “first Hebrew city,” was founded in 1909 and constructed in most part in the period of the British Mandate in Palestine; Gdynia, “our Polish window to the world,” was founded in 1920 and is dominated by modernist architecture, a symbol of both countries’ aspirations. Tel Aviv and Gdynia soon became important sea ports and summer resorts.
Construction of both cities was used as a propaganda tool for the country that had just regained independence (Poland) and the country being formed anew during the British Mandate rule in Palestine (Israel). While a modern port of Gdynia was to serve as a place of departure of people and goods, Tel Aviv was to serve as a place of arrival for new immigrants flocking in to help build a new Jewish state. We will follow annual celebrations held in the two cities, both marked by national symbols and colours. Whereas in Gdynia the celebration is called the Sea Festival, Tel Aviv residents celebrate Purim, a joyous holiday symbolising regained freedom.
We will also present artworks originally from Tel Aviv by artists such as Nachum Gutman, Reuven Rubin and Ludwig Blum, as well as projects by the leading architects of White Gdynia and White Tel Aviv. We will show original advertisements and propaganda posters from the interwar period as well as everyday objects such as fragments of dinnerware from the MS Piłsudski liner. We will also construct models of buildings from Gdynia and Tel Aviv especially for display at the exhibition.
We have invited contemporary artists to cooperate with us: Maurycy Gomulicki will design a neon sign referring to both cities especially for POLIN Museum. Photographer Wojciech Wilczyk will share his new perspective on the modernist architecture of Gdynia and Tel Aviv.
The exhibition is to celebrate the centenary of the city of Gdynia, the centenary of founding the Bauhaus school of architecture whose graduates had a lot to do with how various cities in Europe and Israel look today, and, finally, the 110th anniversary of founding the city of Tel Aviv.
The exhibition is produced in cooperation with the Museum of the City of Gdynia, under the honorary auspices of Mr Wojciech Szczurek, the Mayor of Gdynia.
Those who should miss the exhibition in Warsaw are strongly encouraged to visit it at the Museum of the City of Gdynia from March 2020. We also plan to display the exhibition, of which Mayor Ron Huldai is honorary patron, in Tel Aviv.