East Wall Gallery, Berlin

The East Side Gallery, an open air gallery along a 1.3 kilometre stretch of the retained Berlin wall, is a wonderful expression of hope and optimism, painted in 1990 by artists from all over the world. Not only is it an historical record of the end of an era, but is also a symbol of open borders and the freedom of movement which European residents now enjoy.

The most famous panel: restored, repainted and admired.” My God, Help Me To Survive This Deadly Love.” Repainted from a photograph of the original panel. East Side Gallery, Berlin.

Most of the panels today have been repainted, layered over years of tagging, graffiti and vandalism. You would think that this preservation would be a logical step, yet the move has been met with major conflict. “Eight of the artists of 1990 refused to paint their own images again after they were completely destroyed by the renovation.”

In order to defend copyright, they founded ‘Founder Initiative East Side’ with other artists whose images were simply copied without permission. It just goes to show that the ego of some artists is bigger than this historical statement. Restore, re-paint, touch up, preserve, leave to vandalism, start again- where do you draw the line with street art?

East Side Gallery, Berlin.

20 thoughts on “East Wall Gallery, Berlin”

  1. Many people believe street art to be transitory, a point at creation in the continuum of expression. What happens when it is fossilised? Does it become art bounded by its historical time? Not that I am defending vandalism, which I think is ugly both aesthetically as well as in meaning. Very difficult questions to answer. Nonetheless, you’ve captured a moment in the life of the art on the wall. What a wonderful thing to see.

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    1. I agree Debi that public art is transitory, though in this context, I think it became to mean much more as time went by, more than the artists themselves would have envisaged. Street art in Melbourne is repainted over constantly- and I miss some treasures along the way but accept that is how it is. The question I ask is not one about vandalsim, but of the ‘preciousness’ of artists in not accepting the desire to preserve and repaint them as required. Oddly, the art on these walls get more visitors than to some of the major galleries in Berlin.

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  2. You’ve captured a moment in the life of the wall with its art..I have an earlier moment…must scan some of those slides in. The Honecker Brezhnev one is distinctly duller, but in keeping with the time

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  3. I am old enough to remember the very many deaths of those trying to escape to freedom over that Wall . . . and I well remember Checkpoint Charlie and the fears of those trying to cross even ‘legitimately’. Methinks this evolving piece of historical street art is an important reminder for each and every one of us never to forget how ugly life can be made for the ‘average man’ innocent on the street . . . . if such is there in a form to make us curious , will it somehow lead us to create fewer inhumanities wherever we are . . . . looking at Israel/Palestine, reading about US/Mexico . . . . exactly how much have we learnt . . . . ?

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    1. It’s odd, but travelling around ex Soviet countries last week, then Berlin and its shambolic centre the week before, I have been interested in this question- too- how much have we learnt. The ‘older’ folk among us are quite clear on this, but teh under 30s, who have grown up in a free world give thoughts of Fascism or Totalitarianism little thought at all ( in Europe).
      You will also remember that song ‘ West of the wall, Where hearts are free…da da’. Mr T just commented that this song was probably funded by the CIA but then he always had pinko leanings.

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  4. I was in Berlin just after the wall came down, when the wall still stood, but was being removed, literally chip by chip. My memory of of my visit was the sound of people chipping away at the graffiti covered wall. I had to buy my own little piece, of course.

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  5. I saw the wall going up as a young child and I saw it coming down. I saw the pain and suffering it brought, Every time I visit Berlin it amazes me how this city has changed over and over. The next time I am in Berlin I try to see it.

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    1. What an amazing thing Gelinde, to see it go up and then come down, and know, first hand how bad that was for the people, and Berlin and Germany as a whole. Berlin seems to be in a permanent state of flux. We stayed in Freidrichshain, a suburb on the east side with an interesting culture and vibrant street life. In my travels around Berlin, I was amazed to see such open areas, half developed parts, so many things not quite finished, temporary cyclone fencing everywhere. Always changing.

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  6. One of my favourite video concerts is the Roger Waters ‘The Wall’ performed in Berlin in I think 89 or 90. Van Morrison does a grest version of Comfortably Numb. It was transitory but a powerful memory. Say g’day to Pinko for me.

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