Parallel to this year's Frankfurt Book Fair with the main thematic focus on "Poland", Portikus opens an exhibition with works of the Polish naive painter Nikifor.

Nikifor (1895-1968) was the son of an unmarried deaf-mute woman who earned her living in the health resort pensions of Krynica. As a Ruthenian, he belonged to a minority. Nikifor could neither read nor write and was, due to his speech disorder, an outsider for whom painting became the elixir of life, his only possibility to make contact with the world. For a long time, Nikifor lived as a beggar and could only sell his drawings to the visitors of the health resort in his hometown. Only in the 1930s was he discovered by Polish artists. Especially in Poland, Nikifor counts as a central figure of post-war art and has until today influenced many painters there.

Most of his works are watercolours; later, he also created gouaches and wax-crayon drawings. His pencil drawings are dated from the last years of his life. Apart from a few exceptions, his pictures are small-formatted; due to lack of paper, Nikifor also used cardboard, wrapping-paper, blank pages from school books, and even cigarette-packets.

For his pictures, he often created frames also made of paper with yarn eyelets for hanging. On the reverse side of many pictures there is a stamp reading "PAMIATKA KRYNICY" ("Souvenir from Krynica"), and instead of a signature the stamp NIKIFOR-MALARZ or NIKIFOR ARTYSTA ("Painter: Nikifor" or "Artist: Nikifor").

Nikifor's works show cut-off pictorial spaces and - in regard to their formal construction - very dense staggered arrangements into the depth. This leads to the motifs appearing extremely close. The compositions are frequently constructed symmetrically around a central motif. The watercolours and gouaches possess a strong and luminous, at times surrealistic colouring.

Nikifor's oeuvre includes various themes, such as views from Krynica and the direct vicinity, which Nikifor basically depicts in a realistic way, often interspersed, however, with fantasy elements. He frequently defines buildings using persons or a symbol. Synagogues are crowned by candles, small animals indicate a vet's practice, a couple dances on the roof of a dance-hall, and the Polish eagle signifies offices such as town halls and post offices.

Nikifor also depicted interior scenes. These include interiors of churches with clergymen and believers, as well as interior rooms of administration buildings and holiday pensions along with the staff. Above all, Nikifor also thematized kitchens.

Apart from these, portraits of health resort guests were created, which were most likely directly commissioned works. Here, the persons shown in profile or en face fill up almost the entire picture.

The exhibition at Portikus will bring together approx. 130 works; they come from the Panstwowe Muzeum Etnograficze in Warsaw, the Muzeum Okregowe in Nowy Sacz with the largest Nikifor collection, the Museum Charlotte Zander. Schloß Bönnigheim in Bönnigheim, and from private owners.