Chances are if you’ve heard anything about Berlin you’ve heard a couple of things; the famous Berlin Wall and the stunning Berlin street art. The alternative side of Berlin comes to light with these eccentric pieces that grace the city. They can easily turn a simple walk through the city into something as breath-taking and thought-provoking as visiting an art gallery. On my most recent trip to Berlin I had the opportunity to view some of the most famous works of street art up close and personal. Here are some of my favourites and some of the most iconic pieces you’ll find throughout Berlin.
The Pink Man, BLU
This Italian artist is probably one Berlin’s most renowned street artists and my personal favourite. This mural was painted in 2007 and is found in Kreuzburg, on the western end of the Oberbaum bridge. Most of BLU’s work is a political message and the Pink Man is no exception. The big creature is made up of many smaller humans fighting each other to make a single entity. On the finger of the monster is a lone human, different from the rest, who the monster is about to consume. Many have interpreted the message behind the artwork to be a representation of a society that rewards conformity and punishes individuality, reminiscent of the Nazi regime on control.
Hanging Animals, Roa
Roa is a Belgium born artist who his best known for his large scaled murals of local animals in their current reality as a result of urban development. Dealing with themes of death and decay the animals are resting dead or alive, and sometimes even rotting on the walls across the city. His work, depicted with the utmost precision in only black and white, is not morbid, but rather very peaceful. Roa uses his street art to reflect on life, emphasizing that death is the only guarantee in this life. This particular piece of work can be found in Oranienstraße, Kreuzberg.
Astronaut/Cosmonaut, Victor Ash
It’s difficult to miss Victor Ash’s 22m tall piece on the side of a multi story building. This specific work is actually commissioned by the city and is so highly regarded it has been re-printed on t-shirts and posters. Ash cites the Cold War as inspiration for this piece, specifically the space race between the USA and USSR. This giant piece of work is located in Mariannenstraße, Kreuzberg.
Yellow Man, Os Gêmos
The signature yellow, cartoon like characters from these Brazilian twins have had quite an impact on the streets of Berlin. Their huge murals often include political commentary from their home country. This particularly popular piece can be found at Oppelner Straße.
The Kiss, Dimitri Vrubel
While not technically part of the street art scene, it’s definitely some art worth mentioning and something you must see if you’re ever in Berlin. The East Side Gallery is a mile long stretch of what’s left of the Berlin Wall. The piece pictured here is the most historic piece of work on the wall. The kiss depicts Soviet leader Lenoid Brezhnev giving the East Germany president Erich Honecker what appears to be a passionate kiss. The image is based on an actual photograph taken in 1979. The caption under the painting reads “God help me to survive this deadly love affair.” Many believe the painting to be symbolic of the divide between East and West Germany.
Businessman in Chains, BLU
Lastly, we have my favourite piece of all. This was BLU’s most famous and controversial piece of street art in Berlin, until the artist himself recently painted over it. The original piece (shown below) depicted a business man chained by his golden watches, meant to be a commentary on modern employees’ enslavement to corporations. The piece gained world-wide attention and the popularity of it unfortunately began to drive up the prices in the local area forcing the Kreuzberg locals out of their homes. As people began to protest, BLU realized his mural had contributed greatly to the distress on the community. In the middle of the night on December 11, 2014, BLU painted over the piece. A full article can be found here explaining BLU’s reasoning for painting over his work.
Here is an interesting video showing BLU actually painting the original mural.