Bean’s Coffee Mural Leaves Bad Taste in Landlord’s Mouth?

photo(167)Daniel Maurer Walker Fee at work.

Over the weekend, Walker Fee continued work on the mural he’s painting on the wall of The Bean’s forthcoming location on First Avenue. When it’s done, it’ll be studded with mosaics courtesy of – who else? – Jim Power. But there’s a slight chance the steam-themed mural will evaporate: the landlord is said to have voiced concerns that it doesn’t jibe with a hotel that’s set to open above the storefront.

Mr. Fee – who painted the murals inside of The Bean’s Second Avenue location along with Nicolina and other members of their artists’ collective, the Free Arts Society – is using housepaint to create a java-themed riff on Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss.” Taking a break from his work on Saturday, he told us, “This building just got painted over, and I’m anxious to see if I can do a cool atmosphere-changing mural to make it seem like the place is being held up by columns of smoke.”

But has his work changed the atmosphere a little too much? Mr. Fee, 26, said the building’s landlord wasn’t immediately sold on the art. “The first day we faced just a little – it wasn’t trouble from the landlord, he was just like, ‘Um, I don’t like it,’ and I was like, ‘Um, it’s the first day, so… you know.’”

photo(145)Daniel Maurer The mural in progress, last week.

But Mr. Fee is confident that, like nervous clients in the past, he’ll come around to it. “I think he’s going to love it when he sees what finally comes out of it. He was just like, ‘I’m trying to run a classy hotel here,’ you know, and I see what he was saying – [the art] was just black and white before; it was just a sketch. So, of course he’s going to go, ‘What the hell is this?’ He didn’t see it when it was all Klimt-ed up.”

Ike Escava, a co-owner of The Bean, said he wasn’t worried, either. Asked if the building’s owner was put off by the artwork, he said, “The landlord was not put off – his input was that we should be very considerate – I don’t know what the right word is, not considerate, but we should keep it in our mind that there’s going to be a hotel above and whatever we do should highlight it in the building.”

Mr. Fee hoped the landlord would appreciate the value of the art. “I think he’ll have to let it stay because everybody loves it,” he said. “Everybody that walks by is like, ‘Oh my Gosh, this is so East Village; this is what I come to the East Village for. And it’s true: this is what people come to the East Village for.” And besides, said the artist: “This guy will have to be convinced one way or another – I ain’t doing all this work for nothing!”

But Mr. Escava took a more cautious tone. “At the end of the day if it doesn’t do what we want to do, we’d change it to something that fits.”

The coffee shop’s third location is set to open June 1. It’s uncertain when the hotel will open: Terrance Lowenberg, who is listed in Department of Buildings records as a member of the company that owns the building, did not return a message requesting comment.