Since the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, it became one of the world’s largest canvases for street art and graffiti. The artists of West Berlin covered their side of the wall head to toe in paintings, murals and tags whereas the East side stayed completely blank, imitating the disparity between both sides. When the wall came down, Berliners preserved a section of the wall, creating the famous East Side Gallery. However, now graffiti and street art is no longer exclusive to the wall and can be found on nearly every street.
There are many different artists to look out for, through their distinctive styles and repetitive motifs. For example, you will notice the tag ‘1Up’ scattered around Berlin, the tag of an international collective that stands for ‘one united power’. There is estimated to be over 70 of these tags dotted in Berlin, and once you start noticing them you’ll find that you can’t go a day without seeing one!
The same applies for ‘Mr 6’ and his tag of a painted 6. Mr 6 is more old school: he is an older man that rides around on his bike with merely a pot of paint and a paintbrush, painting 6s in various locations. Another common sight is Sober and his dancing girls. Unlike Mr 6 and 1Up, Sober does not work in paint but rather in print due to the decreased fine if he is caught in the act. He photographs dancing girls in one of Berlin’s many techno hotspots and blows up the picture, ready to plaster walls and buildings. What makes his work especially unique is that he throws confetti over his dancing girls, making it easy to spot a fresh Sober piece.
As well as these small, light-hearted paintings or posters, much of Berlin’s street art is grounded in politics and is often directed at the growing problem of gentrification. Large parts of Berlin are being bought out by large co-operations, such as Media Spree, thus upping the prices of rent and forcing out Berliners. In response, look out for the ‘FUCK YOU MEDIA SPREE’ tag scattered around the city. Another example of street art acting in response to this co-operate takeover is the large face next to the East Side Gallery. This was done by an artist named Villes, who uses dynamite to create the facial features. It is impressive and large, a piece that would normally be applauded in the street art community. However, it was soon discovered that is was not the work of an independent artist but rather an advert for Levi jeans. As this went against the grain in terms of street art morals, graffiti artists replied with a mural of an angry mob next to the advert.
By not actually defacing it, this response encapsulates the artists’ passive rebellion against gentrification through the medium of art.
A must-see if you’re interested in Street Art is Hackescher Markt. Situated in the over-developed Stadt Mitte, Hackescher Markt is an expressive oasis for street artists. It is an area with free art studios and the walls are plastered from head to toe in different types of street art. Look out for the famous painting of Anne Frank. What’s more there are a few beer gardens, shops and galleries, making it an interesting and easy place to spend a relaxing afternoon.
CTR Berlin, Hannah Turner