The Travelettes Guide to Street Art in Berlin
People come to Berlin for different reasons – whether it is to comprehend the leftovers of separation and unification, to enjoy the never-ending club tours through Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain or to experience the diversity of cultures living together.
But Germany’s capital is also the center of attraction for artists from all over the world – musicians from Slovakia, writers from Australia and an always growing group of street and graffiti artists from Belgium, the US or South America.
Berlin is a mekka for creatives producing their art on the open street. Living here one does not have to go far to find it. I simply step outside of my house and I’m often overwhelmed by amazing murals and stencils, colorful sticker collections and perfectly written, yet unreadable names.
Why is it happening?
“Poor, but sexy” – mayor Wowereit’s famous words describing the essence of Berlin. Even though the increase is steady and at times daunting, the low rents and living costs continue to make Berlin the most affordable metropolis in Europe. Young people without jobs but with great ideas settle in Kreuzberg, Wedding or Neukölln and use the various cultures and styles of architecture as their inspiration. Berlin is not a wealthy city – a big advantage for street artists. Public spaces are left alone by the authorities, ownership for many houses has been left uncertain after the unification, so who would care if there’s some color up on this wall or that roof?
Murals and graffitis profit from the lack of interest in removing them and usually live a long life before someone else comes to paint over them.
Art is Art.
Galleries showing and selling contemporary art are popping up all over the city and exhibitions featuring street artists enjoy great popularity not only after the Banksy mockumentary “Exit through the gift shop”.
Skalitzer’s Contemporary Art was founded by Australians Kelly Reiffer and Rory Schmitz and recently moved from Kreuzberg to the RAW site in Friedrichshain. The gallery just finished its exhibition of Portuguese artist VHILS (see below, right side) in Sydney, Australia and will be reopening in Berlin soon.
Anther gallery worth keeping an eye out for is OPEN WALLS. There is a private showroom in Berlin Wedding, opening on request; otherwise Open Walls is an itinerant gallery exhibiting on free spaces all over the world. The gallery is currently hosting the DISSIDENTS group show including works by Just, BR1, Vermibus and others.
Where to go?
The area between Warschauer Straße and Ostkreuz is a great starting point for a street art tour, which should be on the to do list of every Berlin-traveller: visit legal graffiti yards, explore the hidden corners of RAW and cross over to Kreuzberg via Oberbaumbrücke. Once in Kreuzberg make sure to stop by Blu‘s murals in Cuvrystreet: the left one is criticizing how society is a prisoner to material wealth, the right one supports the idea of the unification of East and West Germany and of getting rid of stereotypes – a process still in progress.
UPDATE: During the night before December 12, 2014 both Blu-murals at Cuvrystreet were painted over with the artist’s consent.
Keep exploring every street and corner in Kreuzberg – believe me, you will find colour on any available surface. Good spots are around Schleschiches Tor, Görlitzer Bahnhof, Heinrichplatz and Kottbusser Tor. And keep looking up – just today I saw a massive 1UP tag decorating a rooftop at Kottbusser Damm.
Once you arrive in Neukölln make your way to another gallery. Idrawalot is a tiny artspace 2 minutes from Rathaus Neukölln and is run by US-American Karl Addison. Its current Stick Core Exhibition shows stickers from all over the world!
If you want to play safe and learn some more about street art and graffiti history and techniques, think about booking a street art workshop with Alternative Berlin Tours. For only 15€ you will get a two hour guided tour with a locally based graffiti writer, who will show you different pieces of art and explain in detail about street art in Berlin. Very informative and a lot of fun – isn’t is always fun to hear stories about illegal art activities? After the tour you will visit the company’s workshop in Friedrichshain to learn how to cut and spray a stencil yourself! All the material and – if you are as lucky as me – a cute tourguide included!
From now on I want you to wander the streets of Berlin and any other city with open eyes – there’s little wonders waiting behind every corner. Also check out some of my favourite street art instagrammers @pistoja, @street_art_hunter, @urbanpirate_takeover & @berlinisco.