Whilst Ursynów and Praga scrap it out to be recognized as the leader of Warsaw’s mural movement, Wola’s been doing equally great things on the quiet…
Way before Warsaw first went nutty for murals we had Kamien I Co on Waliców 14. Painted by Wiktor Malinowski in 2009, this 1,400 sq/m monster covers a building that was heavily smashed during the war. Falling inside what was once the Jewish Ghetto, the artwork features a red balloon floating off into the air, and was designed so as to foster memory and raise consciousness about the city’s tragic past. Touching as this homage is, it’s future is under threat with real estate firms circling the property with dollar signs in their eyes.
When Browary Warszawskie finally opened last year it came as little surprise that space had been saved for a mural. What was a little more unexpected was just quite where. Lauded as Warsaw’s ‘first stair mural’, Dawid Ryski’s work adorns dozens of steps that lead down to the former brewery’s social heart. Showing lots of happy people in beer clinking poses, the project stretches 17-meters to cover a total floor span of 50 sq/m.
Notable for its cheerful cartoon style and green and yellow colors, this mural celebrates the life of MP Jan Lityński. Imprisoned numerous times for his anti-communist rhetoric, Lityński was a hugely admired figure, one whose popularity grew yet further after he busted out of jail in the 1980s. Known for his kindly demeanor, he died last February after plunging through ice while trying to save a dog from drowning. Found at the intersection of Towarowa and Solidarności, this tender artwork was designed by Bruno Neuhamer and unveiled by Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski towards the end of summer.
There’s no shortage of murals dedicated to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, but none we know of beat the one at Płocka 41 for size. Authored by Damian Kwiatek, it presents scenes of everyday civilian suffering inside the silhouette of a soldier’s helmet. The location of the 180 sq/m artwork is not coincidental – the notorious Wola massacre, a one-week bloodbath that cost the lives of an estimated 40,000 people, was conducted in this area.
The contrasts of Wola are perhaps richest on Wronia, a street on which you’ll find abandoned tenements and battered car garages rubbing shoulders with swank apartment blocks and soaring skyscrapers. With so much for the eyes to roam on, it’s easy to miss Swanski’s sharks at No. 47. Painted on the occasion of World Ocean Day, the mural was designed to draw attention to the dangers of over-fishing.
Visit Wronia 50 to view a sensitive mural that pays tribute to the ‘divine mothers’ that fight cancer while pregnant. Titled Rak’n’Roll, the mural was authored by Michał Warecki who designed it to be “feminine, dignified and reflective” whilst also being “energetic and expressive”. Officially unveiled on Divine Mother’s Day on October 6th, 2017, the mural was commissioned so as to serve as “a beautiful and lasting form of social communication”.
Best-known for his surreal, Warsaw-inspired watercolors, acclaimed artist Tytus Brzozowski has seen his work supersized in recent years in the form of several large-format murals across the length and breadth of Warsaw. Found on the side of the Spark building (Solidarności 173), this was the first of his works to be given the XXL treatment, and remains one of the finest. Celebrating the pre-war history of the area, it was painted in 2018 and contains several historical references amid its more dreamier motifs. Also in Wola, visit Chmielna 120 to see another mural of his, this one incorporating a series of neon-lit circles that look stunning at night.
This little-known mural (Chłodna 56/60) commemorates the Kometa Kino that once stood on Chłodna 47/49. Noted for its castle-style turrets and ramparts, the cinema was founded in the 1920s and was celebrated as being among the largest in the country. Holding 1,500 people, it was severely damaged in the first days of the war and later bulldozed entirely.
Wola’s lurch towards the future hasn’t always met with critical acclaim, but visit Pl. Europejski to find an example of a developer doing it right. The brainchild of Ghelamco, this square isn’t short of attractions, but while it’s the water features and ‘heart’ sign that tend to get the publicity, two nearby murals have also done their bit to boost the area’s visual credentials. Designed by Belgian comic book guru Francois Schuiten and the renowned poster artist Rafał Olbinski, this pair of neighboring murals have turned the back-ends of two shabby tenements into genuine works of art.
Debuting on New Year’s Eve, 2019, this mural on Płocka 2 marks the home of the NCK, the national cultural center. Designed by illustrator Katarzyna Bogucka, this 170 sq/m painting depicts various jovial people engaging in cultured activities such as jamming on guitars and tooting on trumpets. The point of the mural, say NCK, is to remind passersby just how important culture can be.
Recognized as one of the biggest names in contemporary Polish art, the life of Edward Dwurnik (1943-2018) has been honored by way of a 90 sq/m mural on the side of the Norblin development. Based upon a painting executed by the artist in 2009, it features the factory complex standing amid a sea of neighboring blue buildings. Arresting in its vibrancy, the mural was executed by Red Sheels, a female collective specializing in wall art.
Striking in its simplicity, Alicja Biała’s mural on Ogrodowa 65 is one of the true gems of Wola. “I was inspired by the old photos of my great-grandparents,” says the artist. Previously appearing as far afield as Portugal and Mexico, Biała’s work bridges the past with the present to act as a tribute to both the former and current residents of Warsaw; from a contemporary perspective, the resemblance these whiskered cyclists bear to ‘the modern Warsaw man’ is almost hilariously uncanny.
Absolutely immense in its size and scope, the details contained within Igor Chołda’s 400 sq/m mural on Żelazna 41 were inspired by the artist’s childhood memories. Growing up in Wola, Chołda’s magnum opus shows rattling trams, the railway museum, the circus that once occupied the corner of Solidarności and Towarowa and a jillion other little details. Marvelous to admire, it’s been stopping traffic ever since its implementation in the summer of 2018.
Deadening the effects of smog through its use of photocatalytic paints, this stunner on Ogrodowa 59A came into being on the behest of PGE. “As a producer of renewable energy sources, we have a positive impact on the lives of Poles,” says the firm’s president, Marcin Karlikowski. “In our mural, we expressed that on two levels: both on the level of artistic creation, as well as via the methods and materials used.” Meanwhile, the billboard that previously occupied this space also found itself doing some good after being recycled into hundreds of shopping bags.
Awaiting discovery on Żytnia 46 is a slightly cosmic mural of musical legend Czesław Niemen. Widely regarded as ‘the Polish Bob Dylan’, Niemen tapped into the spirit of the 60s to become the voice of a generation. One of the first Poles to adopt a long-haired look and psychedelic style, his sound and avant-garde attitude were unheard of at the time. Locally idolized for his anthemic ode to the capital, Sen o Warszawie, this is a mural befitting of one of Poland’s greatest heroes.
And now for something completely different. Going under the name of Galeria Tybetańska, this Wola roundabout / flyover found itself turned into a giant canvas after the Dalai Lama visited in 2009. Once a forbidding, concrete no-man’s land, it’s since been home to an ever-changing display of murals relating to Tibetan culture.