Urban and street art in Berlin can be found everywhere. The streets of the German capital boast some of the best street art in the world, being Mitte, Friedrichshain, and Kreuzberg the epicentre of this subcultural expression.
The birth of street art in Berlin can be traced back to the 60’s when the Soviet Union erected the Berlin wall, separating East and West. Due to the symbolic significance of the wall as a divisive medium, it became the obvious place for the citizens to express their opinions and frustrations on a whole range of issues.
During the Cold War, the West side of the wall was completely covered in painting, unlike the East side of the wall which remained blank, because people in East Berlin were unable to get close enough to the wall to paint on it. After the collapse of the Berlin wall, the graffiti artists marched straight into East Germany. Mitte, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and the rest of areas that the military had occupied became a new playground for both, western and eastern artists.
Today, street artists and graffiti painters from around the globe use screens, facades, doorways and walls as a canvas, creating a uniquely colourful landscape. Vhils, ROA, Bosso Fataka, Herr von Bias and Robi the Dog have contributed to the particular and decadent aspect of Berlin. There are iconic pieces spread all over the city such as the Cosmonaut mural in Oranienstrasse painted by Victor Ash.
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One of the most outstanding street art pieces in Kreuzberg is the “Pink Man” mural by Italian street artist BLU. The big creature with its dead eyes and wide open mouth is made out of a lot of smaller naked humans, who are looking scared and trying to hold each other together. Without noticing it, all that humans are composing a monster. On the hand of that monster, there’s the only individual person that is getting eaten up by the huge creature. So the mural could be criticising a system which is scarring the people until all of them are working together and killing the individual.
There are also great examples of street art in Berlin that are gone forever. This is the case of the artworks by Blu located in the Curvystr. It was the last access point for the Berliners to the Spree (the only riverside in the city of Berlin) and the Streetart Giants together with masses of Graffiti made the location even more popular.
The five floored Kunsthaus Tacheles, or Art House Tacheles in the Jewish quarter, was a great example of Berlin’s essence. The building housed an artist collective hosting studios, workshops, a cinema and a nightclub until it was cleared in 2012. The courtyard hosts recognisable street art pieces such as Banksy’s Flower Chucker. The art depicted outside the Tacheles is however a minor reflection of the art scene that once flourished within.
Berliners like to describe their city as “poor but sexy”. The rough ugliness is what makes Berlin so charming, and the graffiti-covered walls and rundown buildings are part of the urban beauty. It’s gritty, and yet somehow Berlin manages to keep a special attractive.
Follow the link for Street art in East London.