Piwnica pod Baranami is a cult cafe, famous drink bar, jazz club and, first of all, premises of the most popular literary cabaret in Poland! The Piwnica pod Baranami (E. The Basement under the Rams), which is the name of the cabaret too, was established in 1956 by Piotr Skrzynecki and a few other students of Krakow universities. Located in the basement of 'Pod Baranami' palace at the Main Market Square in Krakow, Piwnica Pod Baranami served as the most renowned political cabaret in the country, until the end of the communism era.
With the only break between 1962-1964, Piwnica still keeps functioning. At first, it was supposed to be a gathering place for Krakow students, under the name of Klub Młodzieży Twóczej. Soon, this student club turned into a cabaret and its first performance was presented on 16 December 1956. The performances of Piwnica pod Baranami involved different texts, from the Holy Bible and philosophical treatise to press releases and manuals. Scenography was made of unanimated objects, in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp. Costumes consisted of incomplete clothes, wigs and hats. During the show, banknotes and rags were thrown from the stage and the audience was pelted with chopped cabbage! On the stage of Piwnica pod Baranami professional actors and artists connected with Piwnica gave their performances, as well as special guests, who often were amateurs. Piwnica referred to Dadaism and surrealism.
At the turn of 50s and 60s, Piwnica pod Baranami became a really popular place. At the end of 50s, it was the centre of jazz music in Poland and many great Polish musicians like Tomasz Stańko started to give their concerts there. With time, the entourage of the cabaret was made up with other famous Polish artists and intellectuals including actors: Anna Dymna, Jan Nowicki, poets and writers: Czesław Miłosz, Sławomir Mrożek, Agnieszka Osiecka,Jacek Kaczmarski, director: Andrzej Wajda, and musicians: Marek Grechuta and Grzegorz Turnau. Piwnica freguently gave guest performances, i.a. in Cologne, Paris and Vienna.
Over the years the crucial figure of Piwnica Pod Baranami was its founder Piotr Skrzynecki. Skrzynecki was the embodiment of the underground style and one of the most important personality of Krakow, in 1994 he was awarded the title of Honorary Citizen of Krakow. After he died (1997), Society of Friends of Piwnica pod Baranami decided that Piwnica should continue to operate and they didn't stop performing. Today, Piwnica is one of the greatest cabarets in Poland. After almost fifty years of activity, the eccentric artists of Piwnica became iconic and the style of the cabaret functions in colloquial language as 'styl piwniczny' (the underground style).