Home » Rafal Olbinski ~ Jazz on the Cover - US Exhibition

Rafal Olbinski ~ Jazz on the Cover - US Exhibition

Opublikowany: 2012-09-19 10:16:00

Czas trwania projektu: From January 2013


Rafał Olbiński, is a renowned painter and illustrator. In the fall of 1981 he traveled from Poland to New York City for an exhibition of his posters at The Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences. During his visit to New York, martial law was declared in Poland in December of 1981, and with this, Olbiński made the decision to stay in New York. In March of 1982, “Psychology Today“  published his first American cover. Soon after this publication, covers for other magazines followed, among them “Time”, “Newsweek”, “Business Week”, “Playboy”. For many years his painterly illustrations appeared regularly in the “The New York Times”, where he worked with the legendary art directors Jerelle Kraus and Steven Heller. In the 1990s he created a series of critically acclaimed posters for the New York City Opera, which led to his designing posters and stage sets for many theatre productions in the U.S. and Poland. Although best known for his illustrations and posters, he also continues working as a painter, creating beautiful works in his signature style of poetic surrealism.


Olbiński has received over 150 awards, including gold and silver medals from the Society of Illustrators in New York and Los Angeles. In 1994, he was awarded the International Oscar for the World’s Most Memorable Poster, the "Prix Savignac" in Paris. In 1995 the jury led by Mayor Rudolf Giuliani chose his poster as a winner of the “New York - Capital of the World” competition.



Before his international career in New York began, Rafał Olbiński spent 10 years in Warsaw working as an art director for the Polish jazz magazine “Jazz Forum”, designing its covers and layouts. During this time he created cover illustrations using various techniques, which gave the unique look to the magazine. Working with “Jazz Forum” helped prepare Olbiński for the world of graphic design and illustration in New York and served as a solid foundation upon which he mastered his amazing technique.



Photo: Paulina Pułka


During the opening of the “Jazz Forum” covers exhibition in Warsaw in July 2012 Rafał Olbiński said, “I have wonderful memories about working for “Jazz Forum”, because I have experienced an absolute artistic freedom there. No other director or editor-in-chief of any magazine in the world gave me such an independence as I was given by Jan Byrczek [founder of the “Jazz Forum” and its first editor-in-chief], and then, by Paweł Brodowski [editor-in-chief since 1979], who never butted in what I was actually doing. I could experiment, that is why you can see different styles here, different quality of covers. Without this practice, I suppose I would never do what I am doing right now. “Jazz Forum” gave me a boost. (…) I am shocked that some of these things defend themselves after all of these years (…)”. Finally, he added jokingly, “I feel extremely appreciated and I treat this compliment here as kind of credit to finally do something valuable.”




Paweł Brodowski, the editor-in-chief of “Jazz Forum”, recollected Rafał Olbiński’s 10-years work in the editorial team: “Rafał used to come to the office from time to time, always laid-back, he had such a huge briefcase, so obviously there were no computers then, he was always interested in stuff laying around, like some magazines. He always took them, looked through and when he liked something, he didn’t care about anything, he took huge scissors and cut it out immediately. I protested sometimes, yet he used to say I shouldn’t worry. He had a reserve of pictures in that briefcase – if they were useful, they were used. Throughout 10 years, when he has been working with us, he made all covers, or almost all, and made paste-ups. He took these long galleys home and arranged them in his own studio. He worked not only in the editorial office, he also cooperated with Pagart and created posters. He believed in himself, he sent his projects to various competitions and almost always was awarded, which nonetheless surprised him.  When Jan Byrczek went to the U.S., I used to go there (invited by Byrczek), and help him. Then Rafał left and stayed there permanently. It was the year 1981 and the very beginning of his international career. We like to think that his  job at “Jazz Forum”, served as his first workshop and later allowed Rafał to make such a career. We are still so proud that Rafał used to work with us; among all people I got to know in that time or later, Rafał made a real career.”


All covers made by Rafał Olbiński for “Jazz Forum” can be found at www.polishjazzarch.com, where they are available as digitized archival issues of the magazine from 1965 to 1989 in Polish, from 1967 to 1992 in English and from 1976 to 1981 in German.


“Jazz Forum” is a magazine unique on a global scale due to the fact that for over 40 years it has been systematically reporting on the most important events of world jazz. It was established in 1965 by an incredibly creative individual, Jan Byrczek, who was the editor-in-chief for 10 years. “Jazz Forum” was unique, because it was the only magazine of this kind printed also in English (1967-1992) and German (1976-1981), during the time of the communist regime in Poland. Thanks to over 100 correspondents from all over the world, “Jazz Forum” provided news on world jazz. In “Jazz Forum” one could find interviews with music stars such as Miles Davis, Tomasz Stańko, Zbigniew Seifert, Joe Zawinul, Gil Evans, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek, but also with Krzystzof Penderecki, Czesław Niemen, Sting, about musicians like John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Urszula Dudziak, Krzystof Komeda, Zbigniew Namysłowski; coverage from international festivals: Newport – New York Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Berliner Jazz Tage, North Sea Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, Jazz Jamboree, Jazz nad Odrą and others; musical lectures by Joachim Berendt, Roman Kowal, Andrzej Schmidt, Stefan Zondek; reviews of albums and books; Euro-Jazz Personalities: bios of renown musicians from various countries; graphics by Rafał Olbiński, Jan Sawka, Edward Lutczyn and unique advertisements from the period of PRL (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa, eng. People’s Republic of Poland, translator’s note).


Zbigniew Seifert Foundation www.zbigniewseifert.org in 2011 accomplished the project of digitalizing archival issues of “Jazz Forum”. Materials are available for free download at www.polishjazzarch.comIn 2013, the Zbigniew Seifert Foundation is organizing an exhibition of 30 selected covers of the “Jazz Forum” magazine in the U.S.


The originator of this project is Izabela Gabrielson, a graduate of the Art Department, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University and the Art History Department, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. She received her Ph.D. from the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw. Her doctoral research was dedicated to Rafal Olbinski’s work and contributed to documenting Polish contemporary émigré art.  

Izabela Gabrielson lives in the U.S., where she is on the faculty of Northwest College of Art and Design, and is a Fine Art Associate at the Foster/White Gallery in Seattle.



Places of the exhibition in the U.S.:

Exhibition title:

Rafał Olbiński – Jazz on the Cover


Place of the exhibition:

University of Washington,

Allen Library North Lobby


Exhibition's opening January 17, 2013, 6.30 PM.

Place of exhibition:

Allen/Suzzallo Library, North Lobby, UW Campus

1900 NE Grant Lane

Seattle, WA 98195


Rafał Olbiński - lecture, January 17, 2013, 5.30 PN - Walker Ames, Kane Hall, UW Campus,  4069 Spokane Ln. NE Seattle, WA 98195.  


Exhibition and lecture are sponsored by University of Washington Polish Studies Endowment Committee http://www.polishstudiesuw.org/


Place of exhibition:

Ballard Jazz Festival, http://ballardjazzfestival.com/concert.php

Dates: April 17th – April 20th, 2013


Place of exhibition:

Pinehurst Jazz Festival in Memory of Joshua Wolff
Pinehurst, Karolina Północna
Dates: July 14th - July 15th, 2013

Information about the exhibition .pdf


Out & About: Inaugural Pinehurst Jazz Festival - July 2013


The partner of the exhibition is the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Organizer and Partners:








Jazz on the Cover Exhibition - Seattle