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Published: August 28th 2012
Exploring Berlin! A few days in Berlin and absolutely not in the mood for yet more museum, churches or traditional architecture, guess it was a good thing as when it comes to art, the streets of Berlin are the “galleries”. Now, I didn’t feel like joining one of the numerous street art tour but rather like going and explore on our own and go along the way slightly more underground, the great thing was that Christophe who joined me for that part of the trip was exactly in the same state of mind! Sport shoes and sweaters on, off to Berlin arty street scene we went!
Berlin Street Art, Rosenthaler Strasse 39
Starting with the touristy part...
One has to start somewhere and for a first timer in Berlin, the East Side Gallery
known for the largest remaining Wall section
painted by artists from all around the world as a freedom memorial is an excellent start.
After all, the wall is closely linked with Berlin street art as it is along it that everything started... Back in the 70’s when the wall was still in place, the area on the West side was mostly inhabited by outsiders, might they be migrants from Turkey,
anarchists or punk and with very little control of the authorities (keeping in mind that the whole place had been more or less abandoned for years..), they started to use the grey empty walls as canvas for their thoughts.
On the other side (east side of the wall), the canvas remained blank until the wall went down in 1989, followed which the east side became the new playground for Berliners might they be from the east or west side of the city.
Interesting enough, the East side gallery only covers the East side of the Wall, on the other side, one can find mostly tags which neon colors contrast dramatically with the surroundings.
Exploring the streets, art is everywhere
Most of the large murals you can see on the area bellow the East Side Gallery (basically on the other side of the river) have been made by world acclaimed artists
, in some cases these art works where even ordered by local authorities, kind of ironic keeping in mind that street art is technically still illegal in Berlin...
Still, definitely worth to look for these while exploring the streets of Berlin as well as for
the one done by lesser known artists, and these are literally everywhere. Guess I cannot recall the last time I walked so much in a city, pretty much non stop since the morning, and somehow really glad I opted for the trekking shoes… A few of the “big names” and how to find them: “Wall” by Blu
, a recent one (2010) depicting domino like wall made of bank notes – right across the east side gallery (on the other side of the river), Kopenicker Strasse & Zeughofstrasse. “Yellow Man” by the twins Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo, reminds me somehow of the Simpsons, located on a building on Oppelner Strasse.next to Skalitzer Strass. “Brothers” by Blu (again), this is one of my favorite, not just because of the giganticness of the mural & its meaning but because of the surroundings. The painting represents two
men wearing masks which they are trying to rip each other’s off, according to what I could read afterwards this mural symbolizes the struggle linked to the reunification following the fall of the wall in 1989.
Now, when approaching the painting (hard to miss but just in case it is on Cuvrystrasse,
Street Art in Berlin
crossroad with Schlesische Strass), at first, thought we would have to admire it from the street as a wall separate it from the pedestrian. So we did the head twisting exercise trying to get a decent shot despite well the wall and cars and street lights etc…not very successful! Going down Cuvrystrasse there is actually an “entrance” to the waste land on the other side of the wall, ourah no more head twisting and as an added bonus, a small community is camping there. "How long is now"
a giant mural on the side of the art center Kunsthaus Tacheles in Mitte district
whose title summarize the fight of the Pro Tacheles to keep this platform for contemporary art in Berlin. Check out the YouTube video of the same name about a documentary which is being made on the struggle of Berliners artists to keep the center opened.
The area all around Tacheles is definitely worth exploring too, full of galleries, old squat houses turned into areas where artists can express their creativity and plenty of little cafes. One that we truly enjoyed (look for the staircase in the back covered with graffiti) is on Rosenthaler Strasse
Going underground, abandoned buildings, real playground for Berliners’ street artists
Looking for something slightly different & we found it on the www.abandonedberlin.com
website, an amazing list of sites linked to history which have been abandoned and are now the playground of street artists before being destroyed…
We settled on an easy one to access, location & getting in part, and the least I could say is that this was most likely the best part of our little private “tour” of street art in Berlin.
The place is actually an abandoned ice factory built in 1896
along the river and which somehow survived two wars only to be closed down in 1995. This listed building is one of the oldest of this type in Germany & is unfortunately to be totally destroyed to build a brand new glass building…so for anyone who might want to see it while it is still standing, hurry up!
Once in, I was actually quite surprised by the scale of it, simply huge three floors factory with on the ground floor the black and white ceramics tills
still there as well as the machinery
which was turned into an
art piece by graffiti artists, massive window frames (glass is gone since long..) and an interior courtyard.
The metal staircase
is a bit scary but as we didn’t know who we might run into, better to go through the way that allows to have a clear view of what is coming up next…Actually, only a few people were in the actual building, mostly going around to the roof to enjoy the nice view over the river, we exchanged polite greetings & kept going around taking pictures of the how so many pieces that can be found inside. On the roof, spray cans were still on the ground but
no artist to be seen, wrong time wrong day I guess, but still very enjoyable experience. For more details on this place, check out the website above.
Next: after Berlin headed still by car to Bruxelles and then back to France, by the time I returned my rented car I had drove nearly 6000 kilometers, not too bad for a one month rental ! No blogging on the latest part of the trip, which was not so much about visits but more about catching up with friends; next blog
will be about Colombia !
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