Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź is one of the oldest museums of modern art in the world. The Museum’s connections with the avant-garde date back to the turn of the 1920s and 1930s, when radical artists from the “a.r.” group began gathering works of the most important contemporary artists. The action met with great interest of European avant-garde, and many outstanding artists, such as Fernand Leger, Max Ernst, Hans Arp, Theo van Doesburg, Alexander Calder and Kurt Schwitters donated their works to the collection. The unique collection was gathered thanks to the enthusiasm and devotion of as few as five members of the “a.r.” group: Władysław Strzemiński, Katarzyna Kobro, Henryk Stażewski (the artists), and Julian Przyboś and Jan Brzękowski (the poets). The International Modern Art Collection of the “a.r.” group, representing the main directions of art, such as Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, Purism, Neoplasticism and Surrealism, was open to the public on February 15, 1931. The collection has since been consistently expanded through new additions of international modern and contemporary artworks.
The close relationships between the artists and the Museum resulted in multiple donations also after the war. In 1945 Władysław Strzemiński and Katarzyna Kobro bestowed their oeuvre on the Museum. The most important event of 1981 was Joseph Beuys’ visit, during which he gave the museum a significant part of his Archives containing over a thousand works, as a part of the Polentransport 1981 action. In that same year, the Independent Self-governing Trade Union "Solidarity" donated the collection of works created by the participants of an international action Construction in Process to be a permanent deposit of Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź (among participants were Richard Long, Carl Andre, Robert Smithson, Jan Dibbets and Dan Graham). In 1983 American artists bestowed a collection of their works gathered during the artists’ exchange Échange entre artistes 1931–1982, Pologne-USA, initiated by Henryk Stażewski, Anka Ptaszkowska, Pontus Hulten and Foksal gallery in Warsaw celebrating the 50th anniversary of the “a.r.” group.
The collection is now housed at ms² – a recently modernized location of a 19th century weaving plant that opened to the public on November 20, 2008. The main building of Muzeum Sztuki, ms¹, which used to house the Collection for 50 years, is now a place of experimentation with the phenomena of contemporary art. The element connecting this place to the tradition of Muzeum Sztuki is the Neoplastic Room, a historical space for presenting International Collection of Modern Art of the “a.r.” group and Constructivist artists that Władysław Strzemiński designed in 1948. Today the Neoplastic Room is used as a starting point for new projects closely connected with its founding principle - created by such artists as Daniel Buren and Liam Gillick, Monika Sosnowska and Nairy Baghramian. In this way the avant-garde tradition remains the subject of current discussions, new interpretations, and is still very much alive.