Earlier this week I found out that in dramatic yet typically Berlin move, two murals by street artist Blu (one is pictured above) were painted black as a proverbial fuck you to investors using it as grounds to up the value of real estate. When I first arrived in Berlin this summer, those murals were the first glimpse I got of the city’s vibrant arts scene. Alas, such is the ephemeral nature of street art. Gotta see it while you can.
For the same reason it’s pointless writing a comprehensive guide to Berlin street art. Instead here are some places I stumbled upon some art and some of the artists and pieces I learned of to maybe keep an eye out for. If you are lucky, you might see them on your visit. And if you are lucky, you might see new ones.
Though the famous East Side gallery, a 1.3 km stretch of the Berlin wall and the world’s biggest open air gallery is a draw for many tourists, here’s what you need to know. The locals apparently find the artist-commissioned murals too contrived and too tourist driven. Take a stroll and check it out, but know if you do a little bit of exploring in Berlin, you’re bound to see some Berliner-approved pieces.
Always a safe bet to spot amazing painting, stencils and lots of pasteups are:
- Haus Schwarzenberg at Rosenthaler Strasse 39 in Mitte. Adjacent to the lovely Cinema Cafe is a small alleyway that is teeming with interesting pieces including a picture of Anne Frank in colour by Jimmy C. Look out for Don John’s incredible stencils, El Bocho’s sinister Little Lucy, portraits by TONA, Alias, Alice and xoooox, and metal sculptures by Dead Chickens Collective. The building at the end of the alley houses Neurotitan, an independent art, zine and book store and every inch is covered with graffiti! (Also pop in to see courtyard complex Hackesche Hofe just a few doors down. Though void of street art, the first courtyard is a cool example of Jugendstil or Art Nouveau architecture and another houses a ridiculous Ampelmann souvenir shop)
- The old industrial complex turned party mile at Revaler Strasse 99 in Friedrichshain and its surrounds are brimming with street art. Urban Spree, a cool cultural centre which houses an art gallery, bookshop, concert venue and more sits right at the front and is home to many dope pieces, as are the walls to the many live music and club venues. My favourite find here were the oversized photobooth strips by Taosuz!
- To see some of the most impressive (read: large) murals. Pack your walking shoes and follow the subway route on foot from Warshauer Strasse towards Kottbusser Tor. It’s a bit of a walk but you’ll spot famous pieces by artists like Roa, Os Gemeos, and the painted-by-grid Kreuzberg astronaut by Victor Ash.
- Duck into doorways. Some of my best discoveries were in the oddest and unlikeliest doorways, courtyards and corridors across the city.