By Cacinda Maloney
I have a hard time with the city of Berlin and have expressed my views quite frequently, but that does not mean that I do not want to go back, in fact, I do. After looking over some photographs of Berlin Wall graffiti, I thought I would share a photo collage of this complex city. Just like people can be complicated, so can cities, as I have come to discover.
“Cities are complex places. We need to embrace the complexity, and the difficult and sometimes painful feedback that comes along with it, if we want our cities to grow strong and resilient.” – Strong Towns
Art critic Emilie Trice has called Berlin Graffiti “the graffiti mecca of the urban art world.”
You may recall that the Berlin Wall is a UNESCO world heritage site. Local authorities don’t do much about the Berlin Wall Graffiti, especially since the graffiti attracts tourists and tourists bring in cash to a city deep in debt. Berliners have a slang term known as Das Bombing, they are referring to the act of ‘bombing’ the streets with graffiti. This is because Berlin was once known as the most “bombed” out city in Europe. Graffiti has become such a part of Berlin’s Straßenkultur (street culture), that it has become as much a part of Berlin as all of its other tourist attractions. The Berlin Wall is listed as things to do in Berlin on most Top 10 lists!
Visitors to Berlin always want to know: Is the Berlin Graffiti legal? It is a difficult question for Berliners to answer. There is so much of it that Berliners just don’t know anymore. Very little criticism is directed at it. But the head of the anti-graffiti team, Chief Detective Marko Moritz, insists that the city views graffiti as a crime! In 2008, 15,000 graffiti offenses were reported in Berlin, costing €30 million in damages. In August 2015, Berlin police say a portion of the East Side Gallery was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti in an incident as thousands of Jewish athletes are in the German capital for the European Maccabi Games. The defaced section was the painting “Vaterland” or “Fatherland” — a work by artist Guenther Schaefer showing the Jewish star of David in the middle of the German flag, this is according to Fox news. Berlin authorities concealed that section of the wall of Berlin off until the graffiti was removed. The artist of this particular part states that he plans to paint over the hate speech, restoring the monument’s original message of unity.
It seems to me that Berlin has accepted graffiti as part of its cultural identity, as so many cities I visit.
Below is the street art of French artist Thierry Noir. Noir is claimed to be the first artist to paint on the wall of Berlin in 1984. Noir says his aim was not to embellish it, but to demystify the wall of Berlin.
Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the west side of the Berlin Wall was covered in graffiti, paintings, and drawings as a means of expression and rebellion by the people on the western side. The east side of the wall was kept blank, as nobody was allowed to go close enough to it to be able to put graffiti on it. Once the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, all types of graffiti were added to the eastern side. It was a blank page just waiting for more artists. What remains today is known as the East Side Gallery, a 1.3 km stretch of the Berlin Wall located near the center of Berlin, where you can view the pieces you see here.
For another article about the Berlin Wall:
More articles about Berlin:
And for a fun article about the Berlin Wall: Echoes of the Berlin Wall’s Fall Today in Silicon Valley
Things to do in Germany