Berlin. A city so brimming with culture many say it’s experiencing a renaissance. But believe it or not, some of the city’s most exciting art “galleries” are free, tucked in back alleys or emblazoned on buildings, and exist because of devoted artists who value expression over recognition.
Over the years, graffiti and street art have become staples of the Berlin landscape. Aspiring artists descend upon the city armed with an arsenal of paint brushes, spray cans, and markers, eager to leave their signature on UNESCO’s “City of Design.” But with so many marks, trying to decide which you need to see can be as difficult as choosing a playlist for your flight across the pond. Never fear, we’ve got you covered…read on for Electrify’s must see Berlin sanctuaries of street art.
The East Side Gallery
When Berlin was split into East and West by the foreboding Berlin Wall, street art became a pervasive form of expression. The artistically inclined, mostly residing on the west side of the city, scrawled their political musings and misgivings on any and every public surface. But following the fall of the Wall, those artists living in West Berlin invaded the East, poised to do the same to this untouched, virgin canvas, the most famous piece of which has become known as the East Side Gallery. Hands from all over the world have contributed to what is thought to be the largest and oldest open air gallery in existence. Though the forces of man and nature have done a bit of damage, local non-profits continue to invest in the Gallery’s restoration.
The Pink Man
“The Pink Man” is an iconic piece of street art located in Kreuzberg, a neighborhood on the west side of Berlin. The mural was created by renowned Italian graffiti Artist BLU back in 2007. BLU’s masterpiece, made up of thousands of small, panicked, naked men clinging to each other, is said to metaphorically represent the identity-devoid collectives that only Fascism can create.
Another famous piece by BLU is the ironic “Hand Cuffs” piece, which is located on one of the former border checkpoints between East and West Berlin. The piece features a man adjusting his tie, and is bound by two gold rolex watches.
The Kreuzberg Spaceman
Victor Ash, a Parisian, created the iconic “Kreuzberg Spaceman” out of what is thought to be the world’s largest stencil. The black astronaut towers over all passerby from a white wall in Kreuzberg, West Berlin.
The Artist’s Tears
Jimmy C, hailing from Adelaide, Australia is known for his chromatic drip paint installations. Outside of Berlin, Jimmy’s unmistakable paintings can be found all across France, Germany, Japan, The U.K, and Australia. His famous Berlin pieces include the jarring “Artist’s Tears” (pictured above) and “Man with Spheres.”
The works of prolific stencil artist, XOOOOX, can be found in the Circle Culture Gallery. XOOOOX, who prefers to remain anonymous, is known for his portraits of life-sized, model-esque women posing provocatively. XOOOOX’s seductive yet condemning works scrutinize high fashion and haute couture.
Beelitz-Heilstätten, an abandoned World War I military hospital complex lies in East Germany just outside of Berlin. The complex is made up of close to 60 buildings in various stages of decay, though many have been abandoned. All the better for derelict artists seeking refuge, who have left poignant, haunting murals throughout. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and works that linger on the old tiles serve as a gruesome reminder of what horror the buildings once housed.