Most probably street art of sorts has always been present in Krakow even if ignored and/or suppressed. Now, in the 21st century, it seems to enjoy recognition and often an official blessing as well. The art form actually flourished under communism but can still be commonly seen in the stylish high-minded aesthetics of posters all over the country’s walls and signboards.The local government commissions a mural from time to time when appropriate, every June there is ArtBoom Festival of urban art on the streets and squares of Krakow, and the locals overbook special tours showing the city’s street art. In fact, the emergence of street art as a growing and legitimised artistic discipline has created an interesting dichotomy in Kraków’s urban landscape between both sanctioned and unsanctioned works of ‘graffiti art’ and the prolific gang signs, slurs and football-related graffiti that city paint crews have targeted in their war on ‘vandalism.’
Ding Dong Dumb
Perhaps Kraków’s most impressive and controversial mural, painted by well-known Bolognese artist Blu in 2011. The mural’s ironic intent is to take a jab at the relationship between Polish culture and its relationship with the Catholic Church. The fact that it is located in the area of the former Jewish Ghetto only makes it more thought-provoking. In front of the mural where ul. Piwna and ul. Józefińska meet is another interesting piece of public art: a seesaw designed by Małgorzata Markiewicz and dedicated to Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz. Installed in 2012, the inscription reads ‘For Gombrowicz From His Compatriots.’
Entitled ‘Judah,’ this large mural by Pil Peled – one of Israel’s most famous street artists – was created in July 2013 as part of the Jewish Culture Festival. According to the artist, the image of the child represents fear, vulnerability and the inner child, and the lion represents the Jews’ struggle to survive and preserve their culture, as well as the strength to overcome their fears. To us, it looks like Princess Mononoke.
Kazimierz Historical Mural
The mural at Joseph Street is a completely new art piece as it was only introduced in 2016. It portrays various people that are associated with the district: King Kazimierz the Great and his Jewish lover, Esterka; Prince Joseph II, who became the patron of this area during Austrian times; the architect of the district, Karol Knaus; and Helena Rubinstein, the Jewish queen of cosmetics who lived in Kazimierz before WWII.
Corner of ul. Najowki & al. Kijowska
This brick wall surrounding the school at Aleja Kijowska 8 – which runs for an entire city block – may have been the birthplace of Kraków street art, and was certainly one of its city-centre strongholds until authorities decided to stop the artistic expression happening here by painting over everything, including a mural of Pope JPII (how could they!). Such was the outrage that students from a local school used photographs to create an exact copy of the JPII mural on a vinyl banner and restore it to its place.
Though you may find fresh street art here, it seems the city is determined to cover it up, essentially killing what was once the highest density of graffiti art in town.
Singing in the Rain
The street artist Kuba uses street art as a symbol for regeneration of a city. His stencil of Gene Kelly singing “I’m Happy Again” is an engaging message about a city still recovering from the horrors of both WW II and the subsequent Communist occupation.