Berlin the mecca of street art: From illegal spray paint graffiti artists to internationally renowned artists, from vandals to creators, from evil writing to stunning murals, Berlin has found a place for all kinds of street art for over 40 years.
Many works have long become city attractions along with the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate, and now they can be found on absolutely any street art tour of Berlin. But every year there are unique and distinctive graffiti that have not yet had time to light up on all social networks.
Bülowstraße – street art gallery and museum
The small Bülowstraße in Schöneberg is well suited as a starting point for a Berlin street art tour: not only is it home to several important works, but an excellent free street art museum has been operating for two years now. On the museum building itself at Bülowstraße 7, there is also a mural, but which one it will be at the time of your visit to Berlin is difficult to say, since the works on the facade change at an enviable frequency. Street art on Bülowstraße began to appear for the first time in 2013, and in six years the street has turned into a real open-air gallery.
Surprisingly, even now, the area around Bülowstraße doesn’t always make it to the Berlin street art guides. And in vain, because there is something to see here. For example, for the works of artists Findac (Bülowstraße 97), Rocket01 (Goebenstraße 2), Sokar Uno (Frobenstraße 27), Vhils (Potsdamer Straße 149), 1010 (Alvenslebenstraße 22). Here, a stone’s throw from each other, there are graffiti Bicicleta Sem Freio (Steinmetzstraße 24) and Fafi (Steinmetzstraße 55), and, of course, two works by the legendary Shepard Fairey. The first is at the corner of Frobenstraße and Schwerinstraße. The second, co-authored with D Face, is at Bülowstraße 31/32).
Fuck the walls, swarm tunnels
This mural, which depicts digger bunnies at work, was drawn by the artists from the British duo Nomad Clan to well-known history during the Berlin Wall. The wall consisted not of one concrete barrier, but of two, and in the widest places, the distance between them reached 200 meters. This lane was called no man’s land or the lane of death because of the mines and traps located there, which impede the escape. During the nearly thirty years that people did not have access to this piece of land, “no one’s land” has become a real paradise for flora and fauna.
About six hundred species of animals and plants have taken root here, including those that were endangered. And it was here that thousands of wild rabbits found refuge. They dug tunnels, appearing in the West, then in the East of the city, and, it is believed, served as a reminder of freedom of movement, which was denied to people. After the fall, the walls of the house of the rabbits were destroyed, and they themselves had to look for new habitats. Many rabbits died, as they tried to hide from people in the nearby green islets and died there of hunger, fearing to leave their shelters.
Elephant playing with a balloon
The work of street art veteran Jadore Tong immediately attracts attention with its vibrant colors. Painted in 2016, the graffiti is part of a triptych that surrounds the entire house. On the left wall of the house is Mount Ama Dablam, in the middle is an elephant with a balloon, and on the right is the endless sea. This work, like many other new creations in Berlin, recalls the importance of preserving the planet and respecting nature. In Germany, this theme is regularly reflected in street art. To find the mural, you need to go around the house along Wilhelmstraße 7 and go to the basketball court. It is from there that both the elephant and the Earth-shaped balloon will be best seen.
After admiring, do not rush to leave: at the next house at Wilhelmstraße 9 there are several interesting creations at once. Unlike the peaceful elephant, these graffiti are reminiscent of struggles, brainwashing, protests, and clashes with power. This is not surprising: they are painted on one of the surviving squats of Berlin – the house of Tommy Weisbecker, named after a member of the left-wing radical movement on June 2, who was shot by the police in 1972.
My home may not be a palace
The German creative duo Herakut consists of two artists: Jasmine Siddiqi (Hera) and Falk Lehmann (Akut). Collaborations can be found all over the world, but in Berlin, they are especially appreciated: here Herakut is drawn regularly. They are also regular contributors to the Urban Nation, a Berlin street art project. Herakut’s style is very recognizable: fairy-tale characters, unusual scenes, inscriptions. Herakut’s approach to street art is defined not as protesting, but as humanistic.
Their graffiti addresses the themes of mutual support, combating social problems, and charity. The mural My Home Might Be No Palace is dedicated to Berlin – a city where there is a place for all kinds of people. Herakut embodied in their work the idea that this city is not a palace and everyone is welcome here. Be warned: work on Luckauer Strasse 14 is easy to miss, even if you know the exact address. It is located in the courtyard of the house and is practically invisible from the street. The courtyard is open, so everyone can go inside.
“What is garbage for one person is a treasure for another.” It is this phrase that guides the Portuguese artist Bordalo II, famous for his series Trash Animals when creating his works. According to the artist’s idea, Trash Animals should draw attention to the problems of waste recycling: waste production, non-recyclable materials, environmental pollution, and the effect this has on nature.
In preparation, Bordalo II collects tires, electrical appliances, metal objects (sometimes even whole cars), garbage cans around the city. The artist never knows in advance what elements his animals will consist of: it depends on the place in which he creates the object. After assembly, the work is sprayed and the animal comes to life. Berlin Bordalo II presented the “Merry Toucan” located in the Friedrichshain area Symbolically.
There is no such thing as bad advertising
The French artist MTO has lived and worked in Berlin for a long time, so the decision to invite him to paint one of the murals of the Berlin Street Art Festival was quite logical. For its work, MTO received a wall in Friedrichshain, on which, however, there was already a large advertisement (in the photo it can be seen from the bottom right). Instead of getting rid of the billboard, MTO decided to use it in graffiti and hint at the commercialization of street art that has been exciting for many artists lately.
For the first time, MTO created the image of a street artist with a can of paint in 2008 for one project, which in the end never materialized. Over the course of ten years, the idea has undergone changes: if then MTO saw in artists the driving force of the art revolution, now he believes that street art has turned from an underground culture into a mainstream. Graffiti plays a big role in ennobling cities, especially in impoverished areas, and increasing the value of housing. What used to be a way of expressing protest and an attempt to express one’s displeasure, now, according to the MTO, has become another instrument of capitalism and a reason to post a beautiful picture on Instagram.
The sunsets in the ocean
South African artist Ricky Lee Gordon’s mural is a bit off the beaten track of the street art scene, but definitely worth getting to. In his works, Gordon addresses the topic of nature and the interaction of animals and humans. His graffiti is sometimes more like classic paintings than objects of street art. Gordon’s work is called “The Sun Sets into the Ocean” – after the first line of a small poem written in the drawing. Translated, it sounds like this: “The sunsets in the ocean. The moon and tides will rise. Kings and castles will be washed away with water. ” Ricky Lee Gordon does not predict the apocalypse, but, on the contrary, tries to calm his viewer.
The artist has created a work that gives hope that nature will take its toll and not perish at the hands of man. The interior of a ruined palace is bathed in subdued sunlight reminiscent of the pre-war architecture of Berlin. And the horse in the foreground represents life after a disaster. The technique in which the graffiti is made is also interesting. Gordon has long abandoned the traditional spray paint can and now paints only with a brush. So, according to him, he can directly feel the wall and control the creation process much better.
Believe in a dog
Created in March 2019 by London-based artist Fanakapan, the graffiti has already attracted a lot of attention. The mystery mural, deceiving the viewer, is truly amazing. When you see him for the first time, it seems that the objects are not painted on the wall, but actually exist. This is Fanakapan’s distinctive style: he creates ultra-realistic drawings, plays with reflection, and encodes himself in his work. The graffiti theme is our interaction with social media. Snoopy is holding a balloon that reflects himself, the artist, and the surrounding tree houses. At the same time, the artist’s face is covered with a smartphone, with which he takes a photo of the ball, in which he is reflected. In general, all this is a bit like the poem “The House That Jack Built”. With this work, Fanakapan wanted to make viewers think about who is looking at whom and how our perception of an object changes, depending on whether we are looking at it in reality or through a smartphone camera.
Philosophical questions are presented with an artist’s inherent humor. In his view, in the reflection of a smartphone, we are no longer what we really are, but this is neither bad nor good, but just a fact. By the way, the trees and houses reflected in the ball are not a figment of Fanakapan’s imagination, but a real area behind the house on which the work is painted. This technique only enhances the feeling of the reality of the ball and the reflections in it. the trees and houses reflected in the ball are not a figment of Fanakapan’s imagination, but the real area behind the house on which the work is painted. This technique only enhances the feeling of the reality of the ball and the reflections in it. the trees and houses reflected in the ball are not a figment of Fanakapan’s imagination, but the real area behind the house on which the work is painted. This technique only enhances the feeling of the reality of the ball and the reflections in it.
If the walls could speak
In 2016, a competition was announced to create a sketch for graffiti on the theme “If Walls Could Talk”. The winner received a small cash prize and the opportunity to see his work performed by the creative team Die Dixons in a large format, on a wall near Bernauer Straße. The Berlin Wall Memorial is located on Bernauer Straße. She was on the same street: houses were in East Berlin, and the sidewalk was in West Berlin. Many people died jumping out of windows trying to find themselves in another sector. The organizers received nearly 400 entries from 60 countries. The winner was the artist Markus Haas, who submitted the most unusual project.
The sketch showed a raw steak, from which a small portion was cut. On the knife, there is an inscription with the dates of the construction and fall of the Berlin Wall: Berlin 1961-1989. And if you look closely, it becomes noticeable that the white veins on the meat are not a random pattern, but the outlines of the city and its districts. There was a lot of discussion around the mural: someone immediately liked this embodiment of a painful chapter in the history of Berlin, someone was outraged by the too graphic image of a steak. But the work made such an impression that instead of the initially allotted three months, it has been hanging for three years. It can probably be replaced at any time, so it’s best to hurry up to catch a glimpse of this masterpiece of contemporary street art.
The first graffiti – the now-iconic “Tree of the World” – appeared in Berlin in 1975. It was created by the artist Ben Wagin, who laid the foundation for Berlin street art. For the author himself, this work was not accidental: trees and nature for him are a force that overcomes political differences and human shortcomings. Later there was a monument “Parliament of Trees” near the Reichstag, the second “Tree of the World” and 50 thousand trees planted personally by Ben.
But he did not forget his first job and took care of it for 40 years. In 2018, it was decided to add another house to the building on which the “Tree of the World” was painted, so that the very first mural had to disappear irrevocably. Then the group of artists Weltbaum Crew, with the permission of Ben himself, decided to exactly copy the graffiti elsewhere. The new “Tree …” has grown in a small courtyard in the Moabit area.
Far from the city center, Reinickendorf is a small but significant corner of Berlin street art. This is a typical residential area, where the walls of some houses are decorated with works of artists from the duo Herakut, as well as Pixel Pancho, Borondo, Collin van der Sluijs & Mr. Super A, Fintan Magee, Hownosm, and the famous London Police. The latest addition to this collection is the amazing mural “Little Giants” by the Catalan graffiti artist Cristian Blanxer. There are two scenes at once, presented as a photograph with a double exposure: a happy carefree child and a young woman who is lost in a big city.
The artist himself dedicated this work to the fact that very often we are immersed in our thoughts, problems, and telephones, not noticing that over our heads we have a blue cloudless sky. It’s enough to break away and look up to understand that not everything is so bad, that there is calmness, warmth, and hope. By juxtaposing a girl’s face and a woman’s silhouette, Blancher hints that the ability to hope and look at the sky is much more inherent in children than in adults. But at the same time, the words “mania”, “giants” and “jokes” are already ripening in the child’s head.