Street Art in Berlin and its history
The history of street art in the German capital is directly linked to the Berlin Wall. The Wall was erected to prevent Germans from the GDR (German Democratic Republic), who were in the territory occupied by the Soviet Union, from converging on the FRG (Federal Republic of Germany). But very soon, what appeared to be a military separation device became a blank canvas of messages of hope and protest.
Indeed, in 1970, when the GDR (East Berlin) was still controlled by Soviet forces, only the inhabitants of West Berlin were allowed to approach the wall. They came to paint tags and graffiti on the wall to protest or to show their solidarity with the Germans kept on the other side of the wall. The wall continued to be covered with drawings until 9 November 1989, when what was considered the wall of shame fell.
Today, many years after these events, street art can be found all over Berlin’s streets. A part of the wall that resisted demolition has even become an open-air museum. These remnants of Berlin’s past continue to inspire many street artists in countries divided by a border in the form of a wall.
If stencils, graffiti, murals and collages can be found all over the streets of Berlin today, it is thanks to talented local and international street artists. Among the most famous in the German capital is the extremely talented Blu, who amazes even the most ardent urban art enthusiasts with his works. Very active and committed, he has created several murals on the walls of Berlin. And behind many of his metaphorical works, there are messages about politics, the environment or denouncing violence.
El Bocho is also a street artist whose work is well known to Berliners. Of German origin, he creates beautiful, colourful portraits scattered all over the Berlin metropolis. He also creates many successful poster collages, the most famous of which is his favourite character, “Little Lucy”.
Considered the most popular and mysterious street artist in the world, Banksy has made a name for himself in Berlin with the works of art that he covers on the walls of certain districts. Like the “little rats” that he scatters all over the place.
JR and Victor Ash are two French artists who are also well-known in the Berlin street art scene. The former is a famous photographer known in Berlin, especially thanks to his series “City Wrinkles” which can be seen on the facades of 15 buildings in the city centre. The second has become a cult artist in the German capital because of his piece entitled “Astronaut Cosmonaut“. It depicts a floating astronaut and is now one of Berlin’s most famous murals.
Berlin is one of the few cities that tolerated street art early on, which is perhaps why it is now one of Europe’s biggest street art strongholds. And even though urban art can be found all over the city, there are certain places and districts in Berlin that are emblematic of this artistic practice.
Among the Berlin districts where you can admire urban art, there are:
The East Side Gallery, which is the longest piece of the Berlin Wall still standing. At 1.3 km long, it features 118 works by artists of 22 different nationalities. This makes it a large open-air gallery. One of the most emblematic pieces on display is the “kiss of friendship” between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker by the artist Dmitri Vrubel.
The Friedrichshain district is a must for street art in the German capital. Artistically very lively, this part of the city is known for the diversity and the incredible quantity of urban artworks that can be found there. However, these works are ephemeral and the old ones are regularly covered by new ones.
The Kreuzberg district, where almost every street has beautiful tags and murals such as Blu’s famous “The Pink Man” or the “Yellow Man” by the Brazilian twins Os Gêmeos.
The Mitte district, which contains the capital’s most famous tourist attractions (Brandenburg Gate, Museum Island, etc.). The streets of this part of the city offer a variety of works by well-known artists such as El Bocho or Banksy. Haus Schwarzenberg is an art gallery also located in the centre of this district. It presents a number of murals by local artists and street artists from all over the world.
Prenzlauer Berg, a quiet corner of the Berlin metropolis. In this charming village, you can admire stencils, tags, collages and small-scale murals hidden here and there.
Stencils, tags, graffiti, poster collages, murals: the walls of Berlin are lined with urban art. Berlin’s street art, which emerged during the conflict that led to the separation of the city by a wall, is nowadays one of the major attractions of the German capital and has managed to inspire a spirit of artistic revolt in other parts of the world.