A mural depicting Davie Bowie is to be installed in the Warsaw district of Żoliborz. The giant artwork will commemorate how the recently-deceased musician's brief time in the capital of Poland inspired his 1977 song Warszawa.
David Bowie was one of the most original music figures worldwide, reaching international fame through his songs, characteristic voice and playfully androgynous stage appearance. The most famous mural depicting Bowie is in his hometown of London in the Brixton area. After he passed away in January 2016, Warsaw also decided it wanted to commemorate the British rockstar.
The initiative to immortalise Bowie on a mural was proposed by Beata Chomątowska of the Stacja Muranów association, which has already created over a dozen mural tributes, e.g. for the women of Muranów, Janusz Korczak, and the Skamander poets. The wall chosen for the iconic Brit is on a apartment building in the Żoliborz district at 1 Maria Kazimiera Street. The place is connected to Bowie's only visit to the area. In 1973 (some sources quote 1976), the artist enjoyed a short walk around Żoliborz during a stopover on a train journey from Moscow to Paris.
Bartosz Chaciński, music journalist for Polityka, writes:
Despite all the myths that have surrounded the original visit, David Bowie didn't have a layover in Okęcie, nor did he have several hours to kill – unless his stay was lengthened by unforeseen circumstances. The express train arrived at 1:13pm and stayed at the station for 42 minutes. Was it the length of Bowie's legendary walk around Warsaw?... He was met by the nice modernist building (before the fire and reconstruction during the 1980s) of Warszawa Gdańska station, which offers a picturesque view of the Żoliborz district. Anyone visiting the city for the first time would have definitely walked in that direction.
From the station, Bowie went to Wilson Square (then named Paris Commune Square). In a local record store, he bought a couple of albums, including one by Śląsk Song and Dance Ensemble that inspired him to record Warszawa for his 1977 album Low.
In February 2016, Stacja Muranów announced a competition for the best mural design commemorating David Bowie. Out of the 20 submitted projects, the jury chose two: one by Dawid Celek, the other by Jan Kallwejt. The verdict stated:
In both projects the jury appreciated the creative and original interpretation of Bowie's visit to Warsaw. The artist's portrait, based on very recognisable images, has been creatively transformed. In both cases, it has been artfully integrated with Varsovian iconography: the Palace of Culture and Science (Dawid Celak's project) and an aerial view of Żoliborz (Jan Kallwejt's design). As a result, these are synthetic graphical statements that complement well the building and the neighbourhood, and which successfully promote Warsaw.
The ultimate choice between the projects was made by Facebook fans of Stacja Muranów. On 10th March 2016, the last day of the competition, Dawid Celek was revealed to have won the biggest number of votes.
Sources: wyborcza.pl, tvn24.pl, own materials, compiled by AS, translated by OK, 11 March 2016