Warsaw art museum buys Zbigniew Libera’s ‘Lego’ concentration camp
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Some controversial artworks never completely lose the taint of the taboo despite changing times and evolving tastes. When Polish artist Zbigniew Libera created a faux Lego concentration camp toy set in 1996, he drew widespread criticism from people who believed he was making light of the Holocaust. Since then, his death-camp toys have been shown in museums and galleries around the world, including New York’s Jewish Museum in the 2002 exhibition ‘Mirroring Evil.’
This week, the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Poland, announced on its website that it has acquired Libera’s concentration camp creations. The museum said it purchased the artwork on Dec. 30 from a Norwegian art collector for 55,000 euros, or approximately $71,800. The museum described the pieces as ‘one of the most important works of contemporary Polish art.’
The work features Lego renderings of crematoria and barracks as well as scenes depicting skeletal prisoners being beaten by guards. A 1997 report in The Times stated that the creations were so disturbing that the Lego Group tried to persuade Libera to withdraw them from public view. (The company eventually backed down from its demands.)
‘I understand that Lego must defend its good name, but this is not a product being offered in a store,’ Libera told The Times. The artwork caused additional controversy when Libera was invited to participate in the 1997 Venice Biennale, but was asked by Polish officials to not show the Lego pieces. ‘This is censorship all over again,’ the artist told The Times. ‘I created this work to inspire discussion, not to suppress it.’
Born in 1959, Libera is one of the most provocative Polish artists currently working. His other works include ironic and sometimes darkly humorous deconstructions of children’s toys and mass-produced consumer goods.
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-- David Ng
Photos, from top: Artist Zbigniew Libera’s Nazi death camp Lego set. Credit: Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.
A view of Libera’s Nazi death camp Lego sets. Credit: Dawn Marie Murphy / For The Times