It’s trite to say so, but what a year that was… If you’re the sort of gloom monger that views their glass as half-empty, then you’ll probably be thinking Poland is about to plunge off a precipice. That maybe so, but it’s sure as hell been interesting getting there. For the benefit of those who can’t remember what colour pants they put on this morning, we take a look at some of the highs and lows that may have been forgotten…
The Wall of Bowie
David Bowie fell to earth with a bump in the 1970s when, while enroute to Moscow, his train found itself stopping at Dw. Gdański train station for a technical break. Making the most of this stopover, the artist set off on foot to explore Warsaw and ended up nosing around Żoliborz and picking up an armful of Polish LPs from a record store on Pl. Wilsona. Short while it was, this foray was enough to inspire The Thin White Duke to write Warszawa, an eerie instrumental that was recorded in 1976. The impact of Bowie’s death earlier this year stirred locals to rally round and commemorate the superstar’s visit to this corner of town by way of a crowdfunded mural on Marii Kazimiery 1. Painted by Dawid Celek, it’s been widely hailed as the defining public artwork of 2016.
There’s a fairy tale innocence to Mirella Von Chrupek’s miniature worlds; appearing in unexpected locations around town, the artist’s pop-up galleries are irreverent, eccentric but always good fun. For her best known work, snoop about a little to locate the street-side display box on Marszałkowska 43. Updated every few months, Warsaw’s smallest exhibition space is a burst of joy on a dark, December day. If you’re in luck, you might run into the artist herself tending to her work.
It’s not uncommon for the people of Warsaw to go crazy for an architectural rendering only to then express their horror once the project is completed: “but that’s not how it looked in the pictures,” they gasp. The Warsaw Spire, therefore, has been one of those rare examples that has delivered all that was promised – and more. While all eyes naturally fall on the 220-meter tower, it is the creation of Pl. Europejski outside that elevates this development to the realm of special. A tranquil sanctuary of curving pathways, tinkling water features and illuminated art installations, even in winter when the trees are bare and the fountains dry you get the sense that something significant has been built: something truly European.
Seemingly betrayed by the building’s owner, the Jewish Theater – one of the last surviving Yiddish language theaters in Europe – found itself locked out of its home this summer. Unperturbed, the company took their performances outdoors. Golda Tencer, the director, has pledged defiance: “theater isn’t about walls and buildings, it’s about people – we are the theater. Us and our viewers.” The saga is set to continue into 2017.
A Royal Event
Shining like a jagged chunk of quartz, there were some who questioned if the Royal Wilanów complex would work: well, it has. Uniting a neighborhood that has at times lacked its own place in the world, this mixed-use project has emerged strongly as the district’s social compass.
One For The Books
It’s often said that the internet killed the bookshop; while there’s an element of truth to that, the bare facts haven’t stopped a number of romantics from plugging away and placing their faith in paper. Although their name suggests otherwise, Radio Telewizja are part of this shrinking band of stores that persist with the printed word, and the way they do so deserves an ovation. Tinctured with a retro atmosphere, it’s a place to pop in for a coffee, catchup on local news and gossip and browse through an extraordinary offer of quirky reading material that specializes in local art and architecture and recent(ish) history.
While Bulwary Karskiego was officially unveiled last year, this was the first full summer Warsaw could enjoy it. Costing approximately zł. 160 million, this waterfront development gave the sunny months a new impetus with its modern art trails, view points and social spaces.