In the 1980s, French-born artist Thierry Noir lived in West Berlin, right near the Berlin Wall. He began covering the concrete with cartoonish and colorful figures, transforming the stark symbol of the Cold War into an object of defiance. Read on to discover more about this groundbreaking artist and how you can retrace his steps through Berlin.
A portrait of the artist
Inspired by the music of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, who lived in Berlin at the time, a young Noir packed two suitcases and moved to West Berlin from France in 1982. It was two years later that he would start his revolutionary transformation of the “Wall of Shame.” In a stint that lasted five years and stretched for miles along the wall, Noir secured his spot amongst the street art greats. His whimsical designs became a symbol of freedom and hope for a reunified Germany after the fall in 1989 and today, he is credited as the first graffiti artist to paint on the Berlin Wall. Of the experience painting on the wall he said, “I did nothing but react to its sadness.”
Seek out the art
In the ‘80s, West Berlin was home to an eclectic community of free-thinkers—artists, musicians, and activists. It was this alternative atmosphere that stood in contrast to the strictly regulated environment of East Berlin that gave Noir and his contemporaries the freedom to create their art, opening the door for the visionaries of today.
The scene today
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Berlin’s street art scene has blossomed. From amateurs transforming corners to artists making murals that cover entire buildings, Berliners’ creativity has earned the city international acclaim. While artists use all neighborhoods as canvases, you can find some of the most noteworthy murals with the help of this map.
If street art isn’t really to your taste, Germany’s capital is home to countless world-class museums. The Gemäldegalerie features one of the most comprehensive collections of 13th– to 18th-century paintings by European masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Titian among others. Or head to the Hamburger Bahnhof, a repurposed train station that houses modern and contemporary exhibits.
Have any recommendations for the best spots to see art in Berlin? Let us know in the comments!