Art in the streets of Berlin
The Alternative Berlin
Berlin streets are awash with a variety of different street art styles, from giant stencils to the more recent paste-up phenomenon. The shortened lifespan of paste ups means that the street art landscape is constantly changing, evolving and adapting with the times with new creations cropping up all over the city on a daily basis. Street art can pretty much be found on and around any corner of the city but certain areas, often those that comprise of both former East and West Berlin and particularly those around the site of the Berlin wall, house many of the best gems.
Mitte is the central part of Berlin and in recent years has established itself as a permanent presence on the tourist trail, holding many of the famous landmarks and attractions people typically flock to when visiting the city. However, Mitte is also known for its arty and more edgy vibe, echoed throughout with the influx of cafes, shops and arty residents that live in and frequent the area. The alternative areas are a big hit with those tourists wanting to discover the ‘real Berlin’. Formally, the district was known for being the area for many artists squats, with one of the most famous being ‘Tacheles’ (translated as ‘straight talking’), which although has recently been closed down, for many years housed an art community. Walk past the building, which was once a department store and the exterior is covered with years of artists’ work, from graffiti, to slogans and paste ups.
Another key area for street art and a more alternative look at Berlin is the alley off Rosenthaler Straße, where the works of many renowned street artists can be discovered. Behind the rows of bikes are large murals created by the likes of Jimmy C merging with other abstract pieces to create one long art wall. This continuation and mish mash of different works of street art is echoed throughout the rest of the alley, with the newer paste-ups overlapping the painted and stencilled art. In amongst the rugged canvas, other famous street artists, such as Banksy and El Bocho can be found, making it one of the best free art exhibitions you can stumble across.
Kreuzberg is often considered as one of the grittier neighbourhoods in Berlin, namely due to the famous Kreuzberg riots which began in May 1987 and continued annually for many years afterwards. However, today, the mix of different groups, ethnicities and history in the area make it a culturally diverse and somewhat ‘bohemian’ area. This means there is a wide variety of street art to be found in the area, as well as a mix of cafes, shops and clubs to visit. One thing not to be missed (although it would be difficult to due to its sheer size) is the Kreuzberg Spaceman. Created by Victor Ash, it is thought to be the biggest stencil in the world, with its bold monochrome frame catching the eye from far and wide. Also look out for a great deal of street art with anti-police messages (‘Love art hate the cops’); apparently the clash with the law didn’t quite end with the conclusion of the riots.
A borough linked with Kreuzberg, this area is also full of a vibrant mix of people, fashion and art. Arguably, it is this neighbourhood that contains the most famous and biggest mix of street art, due to the presence of the East Side Gallery, giant pieces by the famous street artist Blu and the mix of different works in Revaler Strasse 99. Blu is well known for his large wall creations and those that are splashed throughout Berlin are no different. Towering above the streets, the impressive form of a giant figure made of thousands of smaller bodies and a global warming timer easily catch the eyes of the passers-by, helping to highlight Blu’s social and political messages in his art relating to society, as they cannot easily be ignored.
For other famous art works, head over to the East Side Gallery, just across the bridge where artists from all over the world have left their own individual stamp on different parts of the wall, documenting and celebrating a time of both change and freedom.
A similar idea to the East Side Gallery, Revaler Strasse 99 also contains blend of different artwork and artists but is much less of a ‘gallery’ defined style. Here, the art is found in amongst the clubs, bars and derelict buildings of the site, creating the image of more of an unknown artistic discovery, back to the original underground roots of street art.
Top 5 street art pieces to look out for:
- Jimmy C’s drip paint installations
- El Bocho’s work: ‘Little Lucy’ character (and her cat!) & security cameras
- Blu’s work – particularly in Friedrichshain; the giant global warming sand timer & large figure made out of smaller figures
- ‘Xoooox’ Stencils
- Kreuzberg Spaceman
Want to know more?
Visit ‘alternative Berlin’ for an extensive list of all things alternative Berlin has hidden if the usual tourist trail isn’t your thing.
Or take the Generator Berlin free walking tour at the Berlin East hostel.
Written by Eleanor Luker
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