The East Side Gallery, Berlin: An Open-air Museum
By Daniela Tavares |
Reflect on one of the most important historical events that scarred humanity at the East Side Gallery, a former section of Berlin’s Wall, in Germany.
Traveling offers the opportunity to reflect on several topics, and this is something that destinations such as Germany invite us to do. That’s why among the places travelers can visit in this country are the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and the Monument to Homosexuals Persecuted by Nazism. There, we can discover the past and learn from it to become better human beings.
As a traveler, you’re probably used to going from one place to another while enjoying the chance to discover the culture of each country you visit. Unfortunately, throughout history there have been many events that have affected cultural exchange, or even separated nations. Such was the case of Germany with the Berlin Wall. DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, invites you to discover Berlin and its struggle to redeem itself by visiting East Side Gallery. This place is an open-air museum with over 100 works of art that celebrate a new era of freedom. These artworks are painted on the remains of the so-called “Wall of Shame” of Berlin.
Brief History of the Berlin Wall
At the end of World War II, control over Germany was divided among the victorious countries: United Kingdom, France, United States, and the USSR. Tension arose when both the Allies and the USSR began to disagree on the regimes they wanted to impose on the defeated Germany: capitalist and communist, respectively. Therefore, in 1949 Germany was divided into two sectors whose borders were established across Berlin: The German Federal Republic, which was capitalist, and the German Democratic Republic, which was communist. In 1961 the GDR decided to build a wall to prevent people from leaving the communist sector in search for better ways of life and opportunities offered by the GFR.
Construction of the Berlin Wall
Built with reinforced concrete, with a height of almost 4 meters, the Berlin Wall that divided Germany for almost 30 years became the greatest symbol of the Cold War. However, after it was torn down in 1989, Berliners decided to turn its remains into a historical testimony. That’s how The East Side Gallery was created on the riverbank of the Spree River.
East Side Gallery: Over One Kilometer of Art
After the official opening of the border declared by the GDR on November 9, 1989, many people went out to destroy the infamous wall. However, they preserved a section of 1.316 kilometers to create East Side Gallery, the world’s biggest urban art gallery. The project was carried out from February to September 1990, resulting in more than 100 graffiti works made by artists from 21 countries. The main topic portrayed in the gallery is the series of political changes that led to the destruction of the wall, as well as the desire of freedom and hope for a better future.
Most Popular Works in East Side Gallery Museum
We recommend you to see some of the wall’s most outstanding works:
The Paintings of Thierry Noir
The French artist Thierry Noir, was the first to paint on the west side of the Berlin Wall illegally before it was officially torn down. Cartoonish, colorful giant heads and monsters make up his work. They symbolize the violence and repression the wall represented.
Berlin Wall’s Graffiti Kiss
Another famous painting is the one known as “Bruderkuss”, “Fraternal Kiss” or “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love” made by the Russian artist Dmitri Vrubel. This mural portrays the kiss between the Soviet leaders Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker. Its title is due to the fact that while they were celebrating the 30th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic, people on the east side were still looking for a way to break free and leave the place.
Last but not least, there is a painting of a Trabant, a car used in the east side. The painting shows the car going through the wall. It is a reference to Klaus Brüske, who planned to crash a truck against the wall, to open a hole and escape. Unfortunately, he died in the attempt.
Art’s Purpose in the East Side Art Gallery
For almost 30 years, the East Side Gallery has had the purpose of raising awareness of many different topics. First, it tries to redeem urban art. It turns it into a peaceful protest against injustice and helps us reflect on the events taking place around us. Also, even though the Berlin Wall is part of one of the darkest episodes in German history, it also represents a reivindication and a reminder of peace. The message it tries to spread is that building walls only cause more conflict and loss.
How to Get to East Side Gallery
Access to East Side Gallery is free and it’s open every day, all day long. To get there, take line U1 of the subway, and get off at Warschauer Straße station.
Germans understand, better than anyone, the consequences of racism, war, and political differences. The East Side Gallery is a testimony of this, and it invites us to learn from the past and avoid making the same mistakes.