Fate of iconic paintings from legendary 1950s café unknown after coronavirus forces closure
A legendary 1950s café with ‘one of a kind’ monumental wall art drawn by famous artists, faces an uncertain future after change of vendor.
The iconic artists’ café, located at Plac Trzech Krzyży 16 in Warsaw, was originally called ‘Krakowianka’, but came to be more popularly known by local residents as ‘Lajkonik’ and was a popular haunt for the best Polish painters, graphic artists and cartoonists of the post-WWII period, who decorated its walls with their witty and humorous drawings between 1954-55, creating a now historic work of art.
Tomasz Lerski, Warsaw enthiusiast and cultural historian said: “It is the only café in the whole of Warsaw which is decorated like this. The value of the wall paintings in Lajkonik is enormous and unique in its kind.”
The historic drawings, which are a monument to social history, depict various caricatures of famous people, amusing situations and present frivolous visual commentaries on social events in Poland and the world at the time, and are now under threat after Starbucks, the vendor who had been using the premises since 2012, has announced it will be moving out.
Lajkonik was first opened at the turn of the 1940s and 50s and quickly established itself as the go-to-place for members of Warsaw’s art scene and the nearby satirical magazine ‘Szpilki’.
The idea behind the café’s wall art, was to re-create the old tradition of wall art, which was popular in restaurants and cafes during the inter-war period, and update the cafe to a new post-War reality.
The most famous artists whose drawings can be seen on Lajkonik’s walls include Eryk Lipiński, Zbigniew Lengren and Aleksander Kobzdeja and the subject of pictures often includes caricatures of famous people who frequented the café.
Many of the most famous individuals who visited the café, can be found on one particularly eye-catching wall drawing which depicts a balcony with many of the most famous individuals from Warsaw’s art scene.
Lajkonik officially closed down in 2003, when the townhouse in which the café was situated passed into private hands. After this, the historic wall drawings in its interior, have faced a tumultuous struggle for survival.
The café’s first new owner in 2003, the shop Eskada, wanted to get rid of the drawings and some of them were lost during the demolition of one of the walls and the rest were covered by plaster boards, but these too would have been lost if it hadn’t been for a campaign by a local Warsaw newspaper led by the regional conservator of monuments.
In 2011, when Starbucks took over the premises, it removed the plasterboards and submitted the drawings for careful restoration, where they have been showcased as part of the interior’s decoration since then.
Since the closure announcement, the doors of the former café are shut and the paintings can no longer be seen, leading some Warsaw residents to wonder about the fate of the drawings.
Starbucks Polska Press Office said: “The frescoes are under the care of the conservator of monuments. After moving out, Starbucks left everything without interference.”
However, the Mazowiecki provincial conservation office have said they have not been informed about a threat to a historic monument or a change of owner.
Ewa Ziajkowska, deputy to the provincial conservator of monuments said that the conservation office plans “to carry out an inspection”