Berlin Wall Graffitti | The East Side Gallery
Ever wondered how a long piece of the Berlin Wall looks like? Interested in murals? The East Side Gallery near the beautiful bridge Oberbaumbrücke in Berlin offers both. It’s about 1,300 km or 0.8 miles of the interior wall in the neighborhood of Friedrichshain, at the border of the river Spree.
Be sure to see our full self-guided East Berlin and the Wall Tour.
The Berlin Wall consisted of two walls: The border wall, the part that faced the West and is often referred to as the “Berlin Wall” and the inner wall, in the East. In between was the death-strip, with multiple obstacles designed to prevent people from crossing it, with soldiers patrolling and sometimes also dogs. But the border wasn’t only on the mainland. Parts of the river Spree and a canal, the Landwehrkanal, also marked the border between the two parts of Berlin. The waterways belonged to the East and thus served as the border wall.
The East Side Gallery is located at the Mühlenstraße, very close to the river Spree and is what’s left from the inner wall. Thus, all the murals (facing the land) and the graffiti (facing the river) were added after the East German socialist regime fell – nobody would have been able to come near the inner wall with a brush and a bucket full of paint back then (and spray cans were not a staple in the German Democratic Republic anyway). And, it’s not a Berlin Wall museum or memorial, but an outdoor art gallery. For information about the wall, check here.
The artists started their work in spring 1990, the old regime had barely collapsed and a democratic GDR government prepared the unification with the West. It was an international project: 118 artists from 21 countries painted murals reflecting the political changes in Germany and the world. The most famous one is by Dmitri Vrubel, a Russia-born Berlin artist, reproducing the famous photography of the kiss between the former head of the Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev, and the leader of the German Democratic Republic, Erich Honecker, during the celebration of the anniversary of the East German state. The caption says: “God, help me to survive this deadly love”.
The artwork, as recent as it is, has already needed renovations. First of all, some segments of the wall were removed during construction works. The paintings had to be replaced by copies. Worse even is the damage by weathering. In the year 2008/2009, the paintings were restored and received an anti-graffiti coating. The artists don’t always agree on these measures. They were asked to repaint their own work, and some felt they weren’t painted according to their efforts. The graffiti on the murals are also a point of discussion: Some of the artists have their origins in the street art movement and see graffiti as a kind of dialogue, others don’t like them at all on their own work.
In 2013, there was another threat to the East Side Gallery, as some segments had to be removed to secure access to a new construction site: a luxury apartment house between the all and the river. During the protests, the American actor and singer David Hasselhoff expressed his support for the East Side Gallery. At the moment, there is a moratorium: the East Side gallery will remain untouched until further notice.
If you like murals, you might also be interested in our self-guided Berlin Graffiti and Street Art tour.
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