Why Do You Exist?
Exhibit in Warshaw breaks down conformity.  Artist discusses the obstacles involved to show his work.


Self-taught street artist Igor Dobrowolski paints stark photorealistic portraits with emotional conviction.  Motivated by the desire to convey true stories, Dobrowolski launched a series of street art campaigns in different countries, using his art to juxtapose Western consumerism with human suffering.

My journey began around two and a half years ago. After painting for one year someone bought a painting from me for about 3,000 euros. It was huge money for me at the time. This same person wanted to arrange my first solo exhibition. I only had about seven paintings and started working 16 hours days, non-stop. After one year, I had 24 Paintings and 5 installations. I was offered an exhibition place in the Polish capital, Warsaw. In a very prestigious space. At first, I thought it was too good to be true and it was.

On a cold March evening at my grandmother’s old garage, I was working on the final art installations for the show with my older brother. It was three weeks before the show, almost all the works were finished and we received the phone call that the gallery resigned from our exhibition. They said that nobody wants to see suffering, death, rape, etc. They only wanted to show nice work but we wanted to show the full story. We were left with nothing. We had all the works ready, but now no space to show them and no means of promotion.

Finding Art Space in an Abandoned Building

With no place to show, my older brother rang to Warsaw city in search of abandoned buildings. After a few weeks, we found a place that we could rent.  The location was 520m2 = 5597ft in size. It was a very dirty space. At the same time a well known young Polish musician became interested in my work and offered to help as well. We went to Warsaw, 500 km from my hometown and the space turned out to be a great fit for our exhibition.

Three weeks before the exhibition we arrived with all 26 Paintings and 5 installations and started to clean and setup. Unfortunately, when we started to clean up it turned out that the place was so filthy that it made it difficult to clean.

Securing the Artwork

The next day a guy about 60 years old with a woman about 40 years old showed up both hung over, with an industrial vacuum cleaner and a small brush. After 9 hours of non-stop work and 18 hours of vacuuming, the place was finally clean but now we had no electricity, toilet or running water. My brother and I had never organized an exhibition before or visited many galleries in our lives, so we were fucked.

Luckily a few local builders were kind enough to provide us with all that we needed.  A musician who offered to help, met me with the top lighting technician in Poland, who provided us with amazing lighting. Every day my brother and I worked for 12 hours to make the space a suitable atmosphere. After cleaning and continued painting, my girlfriend and I has to sleep in the abandoned space to secure the works for the show.

The space was so dark that only artificial spotlight was on each work. For the entire duration of the exhibition, music was playing. The impression was very good on some days but on other days when there were less people, my brother and my girlfriend would try and bring in ordinary people, off the street. Very strange things started to happen for me after the opening. After seeing the exhibition, many people started crying and others were terribly suppressed or looked at me with sorrow. Many people talked to me about their terrible experiences in their lives. As days passed more people started coming to check out the exhibit “Why Do We Exist” and we increase occupancy of the show to 80%.

Why Do You Exist

“Why Do You exist?” explores important topics – including addiction, death, and war.  What do you want the viewer to take with them when they leave the exhibit?  Is it important for your work to evoke an awareness of the struggles and suffrage of our world?

I had not thought of the viewer to leave with something from the exhibition. I just wanted to show true stories, an appreciation of life, running time, and ordinary moments that are important to me. I believe that empathy is one of the most important but very underrated features. Perhaps it is even a virtue. I do not deceive myself by the salvation of the world, but maybe my work or work of other people, not necessarily in the arts will help fix something.

I hope that my work is such a minimal part of something good. For me, the try in all work to conclude a part of hope is very important, because I really believe it’s going to be “better” even after the greatest tragedies, perhaps for life or maybe death. I do not want to be too lofty just somehow feel I do not know how to put into better words.

Have you had any major struggles in your career and how did you overcome them?

I can write that every day I have to grind. And it’s very hard. I give everything from my heart and it’s always uphill. But I have my brother Krystian, my mom Teresa, my girl Kamila, they love me more than they love themselves. I live in a warm house, I have a full fridge and good friends. If I would complain and say it’s so hard for me, I would be spoiled as fuck. have to think twice because a lot of people dream to end life as I have begun.

Our favorite painting is “REAL GOD” on plywood.  Can you talk to us more about the story and symbolism of this piece? And what is meant behind the left top inscription: ”How You want to refuse god”

I think that I am a simple man, and my work is not complex. A priest who is interested in the problem and wants to listen to a child. For lost kids, it is like a god. If he wants to use them. Then how do you want to refuse god?

Do you feel that failure is committed when we ignore the important issues of the world?

It’s hard for me to find a sense of life. Even as I laugh and have a great day I always see some old homeless person or thought about the poor children, these people do not deserve it. I have something and they do not, only because they had been born in a different place.  Of course, I can switch off and not think. Like many people, I’m good at it.  I do not know what to say. I hope I will help someone. Or maybe that after the end of life, they will find relief and happiness.  I do not want to sound like a Buddhist monk. But I still have hope.

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