Berlin street art from mainstream to underground scene

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July 3rd 2012
Published: August 28th 2012
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Exploring Berlin! Exploring Berlin! Exploring Berlin!

Berlin Street Art, Rosenthaler Strasse 39
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!

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
Berlin Wall revisitedBerlin Wall revisitedBerlin Wall revisited

Berlin Street Art
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 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 districtwhose 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 39.

Going underground, abandoned buildings, real playground for Berliners’ street artists

Looking for something slightly different & we found it on the 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 !

Additional photos below
Photos: 52, Displayed: 26


“Brothers” by Blu“Brothers” by Blu
“Brothers” by Blu

Berlin, Street Art

Abandoned Ice Factory, Berlin
Outside In, catching up a glimpse of ChrisOutside In, catching up a glimpse of Chris
Outside In, catching up a glimpse of Chris

Abandoned Ice Factory, Berlin

Rosenthaler Strasse 39
Love that one, so vivid !Love that one, so vivid !
Love that one, so vivid !

Berlin Street Art. Rosenthaler Strasse 39
How long is Now?How long is Now?
How long is Now?

Kunsthaus Tacheles, Berlin
Cheers from Berlin !Cheers from Berlin !
Cheers from Berlin !

Berlin Street Art

28th August 2012
Street Art

Great Grafitti blog...the vibe of the city...its urban art...gotta luv it
28th August 2012

We will arrive in Berlin on Sept. 11
Will you still be around? We would love to meet you. Copenhagen arriving on Sept. 7 , arriving Berlin on 11th and in Munich on Sept. 23 & 24th. We loved your blog and will use the info.
28th August 2012

Would have loved to, unfortunately left Europe 10 days ago...I am now in Colombia for a while, but no doubt our path will finally cross at some stage! Keep me posted & have a great time in Berlin (if you have any specific questions/ needs for tips, dont hesitate to send me a message)
13th September 2012

Street art is about expression, freedom and doing art for the love of art. Keep it up Berlin

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