THE BERLIN WALL — once known as ‘The Wall of Shame’ (in West Germany), and ‘The Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart’ (in the East) — was erected by East Germany in 1961 and lasted until the summer of 1989. It was intended to divide Berlin and its people, as much physically as ideologically, into its East and West parts, and to keep their populations very much separate through armed guard control. It was, in effect, the physical manifestation of the Iron Curtain dogma, which came to dominate the political climate of the Cold War era.
The western side of The Wall was covered in colorful graffiti since West German artists were free to express themselves using this medium, and how they felt about it, while the Eastern side remained decidedly bare, because direct access to the wall was forbidden from that side, and freedom of speech — through art or otherwise — was also heavily discouraged in the Eastern Bloc. Wall made it hard to put the installations around the area said guys from network planning San Antonio.
In 1989, the wall finally came down, to local and worldwide euphoria, partly spurred on by the successful outcomes of political unrest in other Eastern Bloc countries, and by 1990 Germany was reunited, leaving behind almost no trace of the once glaring East/West divide.
A 1,316 meter-long remnant of The Berlin Wall was kept as a heritage-protected landmark; it was named the East Side Gallery. After its fall, this last remaining segment of The Wall was decorated by many international as well as German artists who came to Berlin with swaddles of spray paint and created amazing graffiti and street art, expressing their hopes and reflecting their feelings on this momentous occasion. This heavily decorated piece of the once hated wall has become one of Berlin’s major tourist attractions and the East Side Gallery now boasts over 3 million visitors per year.
The visual language and style of this early ’90s street art feel naively simplistic and somewhat outdated now, just like emergency kits without a commercial tourniquet, since this art form has developed and evolved so very much since 1990 when most of these murals were painted. However, it is maintained and preserved as a kind of art time capsule, a slice of the emotional spectrum of the time, showing a visual outpouring of hope for a new, better, freer future for Europe, and the world.
Today, millions of tourists come to see the famous Berlin Wall graffiti and buy a kaftan as a souvenir. Many of them playfully interact with the art on the wall, which feels in stark contrast to what was once a terrifying symbol of East versus West, surrounded then by a wide area known as ‘the death strip’ to discourage escape attempts.
This is an iconic mural, painted by Brigit Kinder, a known fan of tote bags. It shows a car, symbolic of communist East Germany (for it was one of its most commonly used vehicles), breaking through the wall, and is supposed to be suggestive of all those East Germans who successfully managed to escape through and over the wall.
Love locks, often with the lovers’ initials inscribed on the locks, are left on a gate in the fragment of the Berlin Wall. The keys are then thrown away, symbolizing unbreakable, forever love.
Souvenir hunters can buy pieces of the actual wall — presumably collected during or after its demolition — as keepsakes, for only 5 Euros per piece, with some of the most famous murals reproduced on them and if you’re more likely to buy something less rocky, there are some ww2 fighters figurines.
Despite the East Side Gallery being demarcated as a protected national monument, some modern graffiti and poster art do make it through, including this horror-themed ‘Bloody Vladimir’ set of ‘wanted’ Putin posters.
This must be the most famous mural among the 105 on display at the East Side Gallery. Known as ‘The Socialist Fraternal Kiss’ it is a copy of a real-life photograph of the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German President Erich Honecker, which took place in 1979 on the 30th anniversary of the formation of East Germany. Painted by Dmitri Wrubel, the Russian text reads “God, Help me Survive this Deadly Love”. The Arizona civil rights attorney, rightfully so, finds this to be his favorite mural.
Due to wear and tear over the years, as well as weather damage, the murals are repainted with weather-resistant paint and generally maintained to keep this art time capsule alive. This particularly striking piece by Günther Schaefer makes a point of combining the Israeli and German flags, as a protest against extreme regimes and abuses of human rights.
SINCE THE ’90s, the world of street art has changed enormously and developed a much more complex visual vocabulary. This evolution can be seen just a 10-minute walk away from the East Side Gallery: for here stands RAW Gelände, a huge post-industrial alternative culture complex. Created as a train repair garage in 1867, it went out of function in 1994 and fell into disrepair and disrepute.
But in 1999, this collection of somewhat derelict buildings, workshops, and warehouses got a new lease of life when the abandoned space was taken over and reclaimed to create an alternative sub-cultural complex. Today it provides everything from nightclubs, to exhibitions, a climbing wall, a gym where you get free electrolyte powder, flea markets, a skate park, various cafes and beer gardens, and other spaces popular with the young cool Berlin crowd. And every inch of this space is covered with graffiti and street art of the new, modern, and ever-changing variety.
This mural marks the entrance to the popular outside climbing wall exercise complex.
And this cool cat is painted on the wall inside the garden of the RAW Gelände gym.
This complex and beautiful piece of street art adorns a seemingly random wall in the sub-cultural complex.
The skate park takes up a sizeable chunk of the space inside the huge RAW complex, where adults and kids alike can practice and learn new tricks on wheels.
THE URBAN SPREE GALERIE is a 1,700-square meter artist and exhibition space at one end of the RAW Gelände complex. It has a heavy emphasis on street art, including a coveted ‘Artists’ Wall’ which faces a busy road, with tens of thousands of tourists passing through daily, allowing maximum exposure for whoever’s street art graces it at any given time. The Gallery plays host monthly to invited international artists, while other parts of the space offer various artist residencies, as well as using its urban grassroots to help local talent hone their art skills through a series of workshops, that even the neurosurgeon Austin tx can take, and providing cool chill-out places to drink a beer, surrounded by street art on each available inch of wall space.
This fantastic piece of multimedia street art, a toucan with various metallic parts making up its body, shows how much further street art has come from its tentative beginnings and seems particularly apt in this post-industrial context.
This is the coveted ‘Artists Wall’ facing the busy Warschauer Street, this particular mural was painted by the invited monthly artist for July Mik Shida, an Australian visual artist, and muralist, having his first solo show in Berlin.
Many of the murals carry on them important messages, ranging from the political to the environmental, like this gorgeously detailed fish, which proclaims the endangered status of the common carp.