At only 1h30 by plane from Paris, Berlin is well known for its musical scene, architectural diversity, contemporary art galleries, alternative nightlife, and a high quality of living. But one of the treasures of the German capital is also the East Side Gallery, a 1.3 km long section of the Berlin Wall covered with hundreds of paintings!
Located near the center of Berlin, alongside the Spree river, the East Side Gallery is considered as the largest and longest-lasting open air gallery in the world.
The Gallery was created in 1990, after the fell of the Berlin Wall, when artists from all over the world painted on the east side of the wall with the purpose to make an international memorial for freedom.
Paintings from Jürgen Grosse alias Indiano, Dimitri Vrubel, Siegfrid Santoni, Bodo Sperling, Kasra Alavi, Kani Alavi, Jim Avignon, Thierry Noir, Ingeborg Blumenthal, Ignasi Blanch i Gisbert, Kim Prisu, Hervé Morlay (VR) and many others have followed.
One of the most famous paintings is “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love”, also referred to as the “Fraternal Kiss”. Created in 1990 by Dimitri Vrubel, the painting depicts Leonid Brezhnev (president of USSR) and Erich Honecker (leader of German Democratic Republic) in a fraternal embrace, reproducing a photograph that captured the moment in 1979 during the 30th anniversary celebration of the foundation of the German Democratic Republic.
In a general way, the paintings of the East Side Gallery document a time of change and revolution, and express the euphoria and the great hope for a better, more free future for all people of the world.
Unfortunately at the beginning of the 2000′s, two-thirds of the paintings were badly damaged by erosion, graffiti and vandalism.
A full restoration, particularly of the central sections, was led in 2009, and most of the artists of 1990 accepted to re-paint their images after they were completely destroyed by the renovation.
Most of the artists who participated in this renovation are now members of the “East Side Gallery Artists Initiative” organization, which fights to preserve the paintings and to raise annual funds to remove graffiti.
The Gallery offers now a hundred large format images painted directly on the wall, and attracts more than 3 million visitors every year!
Location : The East Side Gallery, Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Berlin. Map here.
Thanks to the “East Side Gallery Artists Initiative” organization, you can also experience a tour of the wall through the eyes of guides who were authentic witnesses of its history, and listen to stories that reveal why the East Side Gallery is a special site in Berlin.
Guided tours: about 15 euros/person (10 people minimum). Duration: 60 to 90 minutes.