Ten Big Ones

Berlin is full of beautiful large murals. Some are commissioned, others are illegal. Some are by well-known artists, others by the not-yet-famous. The mural in the featured photo is visible from the Tiergarten S-bahn station. I don’t know who it is by.

Case McClaim’s mural at Heinrich Heine Allee (U8)

This famous mural by Case McClaim is right by one of the exits from the Heinrich Heine Allee U-bahn station on the U8 line. This area has a constantly changing variety of other wonderful work.

Mural by Agostino Iacurci at Moritplatz (U8)

Get off the U8 at the Moritzplatz station and walk to Prinzessinen Gaerten to get to this huge mural painted by Agostino Iacurci.

Mural by BLU near the southern end of Oberbaumbruecke

Take the U1 to the Schlesisches Tor station, and then walk towards Oberbaumbruecke. When you reach it, turn around and look for this mural by BLU before you cross the river. Look around and you will find an undergrowth of street art.

Tavar Zawacki’s mural at Urban Spree

Take M10 or M13 to the Warschauer Strasse stop and right at the corner of Revaeler Strasse and Warschauer Strasse is Urban Spree. This is a curated work by Tavar Zawacki, which has passed the date until which it was protected. By now it will have been painted over by Victor Ash.

Mural at Urban Spree (M10)

Behind Urban Spree are abandoned warehouses with ever-changing art work on the walls. I don’t know who made the one which you see above.

Selfie-monkey with a camera at the Anne Frank Zentrum

This large mural is in the incredible gallery near Anne Frank Zentrum on Rosenthaler Strasse. You can get there from the S-bahn station at Hackescher Markt or by taking U8 to the Weinmeisterstrasse station. I can’t find who painted it.

Mural at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin
Mural by Marcus Haas and Xi Design at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin (M10)

If you get off at the Bernauer Strasse stop of M10 and walk towards the Berlin Wall memorial you’ll see this work facing the road. It was designed Marcus Haas and executed by Xi Design (this is an advertising agency which has hacked the wild meme). I like the map of Berlin hidden in the marbling of fat in the slice of steak.

Two more works are easily visible from public transport, but I didn’t manage to photograph them. You see a stencil by JR when you take the M2 coming down from Prenzlauer Allee towards Alexanderplatz. Look to the right of the tram just as it gets towards the end of Prenzlauer Allee. The famous mural of the Cosmonaut by Victor Ash is visible from the U1 line. As you take the U-bahn from Kottbusser Tor towards Schlesischer Tor, look to your left just after starting.

There must be many others. These just the large ones The Family and I managed to see.

Closing doors

After walking through the solemn memorial at Bernauer Strasse, we decided to walk in Mauerpark. It is an interesting place. Before the division of Berlin, it was a railway yard. It was broken up into the Soviet and French sectors after the war. Later East Germany built the wall along here, and most of the park became part of the death strip. Now it is an unorganized and badly maintained park. When we arrived on a Sunday after a storm, it was crowded.

Closed gates at the stadium behind Mauerpark

We had an evening with friends planned ahead of us, and realized we didn’t have the time to browse through the Sunday flea market, or spend time at the informal bars and cafes around it. So we climbed the slope up to the sports complex we could see. The doors were shut. We decided to walk around the wall admiring the artwork and the artists at work.

There is an amazing energy here. Over large parts of Germany you see people working hard, making a good middle class life. Here at the Wall Park you see the other side of Germany. The fashionable people from Prenzlauerberg mixing with people who are the grit in the wheels of progress. Something new is being created here and it can be either good or bad.

Sunset at Mauerpark

We admired the golden sunset from the top of the hill for a while. We were a little behind time for our evening. There was no time to rock the karaoke which we could hear. People were still streaming into the park, but we had to leave.

Street artists in Berlin

There is a Paris that I never saw, but one which is celebrated in books and paintings, movies and memories. This is the Paris where artists from around the world gathered and talked to each other, while creating new works. There were hundreds of artists, of whom we now remember few.

Berlin today seems to be a vital place like that. The fall of the wall has given a space, probably temporary, for artists to flourish. We walked through a crowded galleries full of fashion photography cheek by jowl with exciting experiments. Artists from all across the world seem to gather in Berlin today. We came across bookstores which carry eclectic collections of books on art: from slim self-published volumes to glossy magazines.

And every now and then, outside these art-spaces, we would come across people painting on door and walls. There was graffiti in German, English, Turkish and Arabic. We found young (and not-so-young) artists painting large and ephemeral works on walls, others doing signboards and doors. The atmosphere reminded me of artists’ collectives in Shanghai a few years ago.

Berlin is edgy and exciting today. A great place to retire to.

Painted door

The Family noticed this piece as we walked to the Mauerpark in Berlin. We stopped to admire it. I didn’t notice something which was obvious when it was pointed out. This work completely follows the law: the house number and the “Ausfahrt freihalten” signs are left untouched, and only the door and the frame are painted. Legal street art!

My name is not Alice but this was Wonderland

The Family walked into a dark courtyard in Berlin, and I followed. Coming off the brightly lit Rosenthaler Strasse, we seemed to suddenly fall into a hole in the ground and find ourselves in wonderland. There were paintings on all available surfaces. In a variety of styles. Some lit, others not. Some bathed in red or blue lights. Others with well-placed white lamps emphasizing some special feature of the work.

There was street art in all sizes. The gallery below has all the large works. There were smaller pieces everywhere. In the semi-darkness it was difficult to see them all. The photo above is of a section of a wall where many of them appeared next to each other.

The courtyard was not empty: there was a cinema (Kino Central) and a bar, which was well-populated. We had no desire to leave these paintings. We had not read anything about this collective at all till then. When I searched later I found some mentions, including the fact that Banksy had been here. Did we miss his work? We saw so much which was wonderful.

The place was darker than it seems from these photos. I had to lighten the images. Some looked entirely dark in the camera, and required a bit of work to recover. The lion painted on a door with light streaming out of a viewing slit took some work, as you can see from the granininess.

Art on Heinrich Heine Strasse

The street art of Berlin is too diverse for a single post. Nor am I enough of an expert to be able to classify it into styles or periods. Instead I will post by areas. The photos you see here were taken just around the northern exits from the Heinrich Heine Strasse U-bahn station. The mural by Case McClaim is famous and probably the oldest in this set. The others were found opposite it and in the subway entrance just around the corner.

When Berlin was a divided city, this area contained a border crossing. At that time it was built up with cheap pre-fabricated housing, one block of which you can see in the general view of the area. The three chimneys belong to a modern (post-unification) power plant at which generates about half a gigawatt of electrical power. The plant simultaneously generates slightly more than this in useful heating supplied to the area. The plant was designed by the architect Jochem Jourdan. We did not have time to visit the artworks which are integrated with the power plant.

Graffiti 0521

I walked around the neighbourhood of a high school which was dense with graffiti: layered on top of each other. There is so much new that is happening today in this art space: the teenage gangs and their signatures remain, but there is also brilliant nature-inspired artwork. Internet and the TV continues to bring images of nature right into our homes; the tapir and jellyfish are perhaps a sign of that. There was also an underpass wall which looked like Persian calligraphy to me, but, on closer look, was not.

Spanish Street Art

Walking in the back streets of Madrid’s art district, between small galleries and run-down buildings, I was stunned by the graffiti you see in the featured photo. It was painted on a sheet of plastic covering part of construction site. The beautiful skyline, minimally emphasized by the yellow lines, and the lettering were so assured, and at the same time so ephemeral! I was lucky that I walked by the few days of its lifetime.

I did not see more by this artist. In that sense none of the Spanish cities I visited seemed to have the prolific street artists of Porto. But what I saw captured me. Just as I captured some of what I saw. Here’s the gallery below, browse it and see if you like it as much as I did.

Garbatella

The Garbatella metro station (featured image) is definitely not on the tourist circuit. It is fairly deserted at a time when Repubblica, Barberini, Spagna, Cavour and Colosseo are bursting at the seams with tourists. This is the metro station for the interesting Roman district of Ostiense. Via Ostiense, which gives the district its name, is the old Roman road which connected the city to the port of Ostia Antica.

Exit towards Via Ostiense from the Garbatella metro station

If you look up Ostiense in a tourist guide you will find only the Centrale Montemartini museum listed here. But when I arrived to visit the museum I found the place was full of spectacular splashes of colour: graffiti artists had been hard at work in the noisy area around the metro station. A pedestrian bridge takes you across the tracks from the station. As you descend, the brutal concrete of the stairwell is softened with bright graffiti (photo above). After one flight of stairs there is a little terrace from which one sees a brick building with a colourful mural across it (photo below). I learnt later that the building belongs to ATAC, the company which runs the public transport system in Rome, and the mural has been painted by a Berlin artist called Clemens Behr

The ATAC building outside metro Garbatella has an eye-catching mural

The bridge was being used as an impromptu gallery for a group show of photography. On my way to the museum I’d looked quickly at it and told myself that I would come back to look more carefully. As I was strolling back, camera in hand, after photographing the nearby roads, a girl on a phone strode towards me. "Are you the official photographer?" she asked "I’ve been waiting." I’m quite happy to be mistaken for a professional, but I told her that I wasn’t. She smiled and said there was an exhibition of photos I might want to see. I replied that this is where I was headed. The exhibition had some very interesting photos. While I was looking at them, I heard the stuttering sound of a camera set on exposure bracket. The official photographer had arrived, and he looked nothing like me.