Art is on the street – at least in Berlin. Nowadays, Berlin is one of the hotspots for Urban Art in Europe and is used by people from all over the world as a canvas.
The graffiti scene started in the underground of New York in the 70ties and came within a few months from America in the capitals of Europe. In West-Berlin, street art was mostly used by groups which were excluded from the society back then. But already at the end of the 70ties, the interest in urban art increased. Artists explored new techniques and styles. They used the street to leave their messages – very often political motivated – and took part in recreating their city. Especially the Berlin Wall was used as a screen. Urban art also established in East-Berlin however the artists were more limited here since their art had to conform with the Socialistic Realism of the GDR (German Democratic Republic).
Urban Art is the main term which combines street art, graffiti and general art in a public space.
Urban Nation Museum
The Urban Nation Museum (Bülowstraße 7) for urban contemporary art was founded in September 2017 in Berlin-Schönefeld (free admission). Not only the exhibitions but also the housing facades are changing approximately once a year. The museum enables a deeper look into urban art, its history, artists, and techniques. The Urban Nation initiative supports the exchange with the neighbourhood of Berlin – not only in its own museum walls but also with the project One Wall. The idea is to bring five artists to Berlin every year to repaint old house walls and create a colourful Berlin – a lot of the following murals were also painted by this project.
No wonder that the Bülowstraße around the U-Bahn stations Nollendorfplatz and Bülowstraße is full of urban art because this is where the Urban Nation initiative has its offices. The building right on the opposite side of the museum (Bülowstraße 101, corner Bülowstraße/Zietenstraße) was designed by the Berlin-based Ecuadorian artist Roberto Rivadeneira in October 2020. As part of the One Wall Project, he created a metaphor for colliding time periods and named it Because the moment simply is. But also the buildings next to it are covered with street art in different sizes and forms (Bülowstraße 94-98).
Next to the museum, on the same street side (Bülowstraße 11, 12) the works of the two Spanish artists Deih XLF (first photo below, left) and David de la Mano (first photo below, right) decorate the houses. The latter was painted afresh over another work of David de la Mano which was damaged through work on the houses. The artist prefers to draw silhouettes, trees and other monochromatic symbolisms. This also confirms itself in the new artwork. It is named Gray Habit and shows a black and white silhouette of a woman.
Altogether eight murals are at the facades of the houses (Bülowstraße 32) next to the U-Bahn station Bülowstraße. The paintings are from different artists as D*Face, and Word to Mother from England, the US-American collective Cyrcle, as well as Shepard Fairey, and the group Berlin Kidz. The newest is an additional painting of a naked woman with a red glove and a paper bag over her head from 2019. Portraying persons with the just mentioned paper bags in a critical context is a trademark of the German artist Christian Böhmer. His mural Speak Up. Stand Up. draws attention to the violence against prostitutes on the street of Bülowstraße.
Concealed in the backyard of the Haus Schwarzenberg (Rosenthaler Straße 39, next to the Hackesche Höfe) does a dream come true for urban art lovers. Here are all kind of colourful murals, paintings, graffiti, collages, and stickers. A closer look is recommended because there are so many messages, drawings and little details hidden. Some of the paintings are changing with time. Besides the art, there are a studio, a cinema, two bars, the museum of Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind, and a permanent exhibition about Anne Frank.
U-Bahn station Heinrich-Heine-Straße
Next to the subway exit of Heinrich-Heine-Straße is the entrance to the rock club Sage. The door itself is hidden through paintings. Sage shares its rooms with the KitKatClub, Berlin’s most famous fetish club. Right on the opposite of the entrance of KitKatClub is the mural Unter der Hand (freely translated: secretly) by the German artist CASE.
Just around 700 m further in the direction of U-Bahn station Moritzplatz (Heinrich-Heine-Straße 36) is another mural called Face Time by the artists Various & Gould right in front of a parking slot. The painting is a combination of the techniques of serigraphy and collages.
U-Bahn station Birkenstraße
The boy with the injured elephant is from the German street art duo Herakut and the two Swiss artists Wes21 and Onur. The mural carries the message As long as you are standing, give a hand to those who have fallen – and was created through the first edition of the Berlin Mural Festival. It is located next to the subway station Birkenstraße (Stromstraße 36).
RAW-Friedrichshain and East Side Gallery
A must-see on every sightseeing tour through Berlin is the East Side Gallery (Mühlenstraße 3-100) between the S-Bahn station of Warschauer Straße and Ostbahnhof. The historical monument is the longest (well) preserved segment of the Berlin Wall. In spring 1990, after the fall of the wall, 118 artists from 21 countries painted and decorated the east side of the wall. Most pieces show the Political changes around 1989 and 1990.
The RAW-Friedrichshain – or RAW-Gelände (Revaler Straße 99, next to the S-Bahn station Warschauer Straße) – is one of the most popular places for night owls in Berlin. Besides plenty of smaller clubs and bars around the corner, it is also a perfect spot for street art lovers. The walls exhibit all kind of art pieces. The RAW-Friedrichshain are former rail train halls which are used for an alternative culture project nowadays. It is also the home of the Urban Spree, a small art gallery with changing exhibitions (free admission) but also a location for concerts and festivals.
Holzmarkt25 (Holzmarktstraße 25, close to the S-Bahn station Ostbahnhof) creates its own village somewhere between the districts Mitte, Friedrichshain, and Kreuzberg. Besides a music school, a kindergarten, and different creative-working companies, it has its own bars, restaurants, and saloon for events. But more importantly, it offers nice spots to chill at the Spree, get a beer from the very own brewery – with the club Kater Blau next to it. The houses and walls of the alternative quarter are full of paintings and art.
Volkspark Friedrichshain (park)
Attack of the 50 Foot Socialite (Am Friedrichshain 33, diagonally across from the Fairy Tale Fountain of the park) is a mural by the US-artist Tristan Eaton. It is influenced by the iconic film poster of the US-movie of the same title from 1958. The painting was also part of the One Wall Project.
U-Bahn station Gleisdreieck
Aufstand der Farben (freely translated: Riot of the colours) was a project of Interbrigades e.V. in July 2009. The mural (Luckenwalder Straße 11) covers 600 square metres. It was created by the Latinamerican street artists Shamaniko, Hechiza, Somos and UKI as well as four Berlin artists. It took four months to finish the painting.
U-Bahn station Hallesches Tor and Tommy-Weisbecker-Haus
Next to the exit of the U-Bahn station Hallesches Tor (Mehringplatz 28/29) are the murals Make Art Not War by the US-American Shephard Fairey and Hoodie Birds by the Danish-artist Don John. Both paintings are part of the One Wall Project in 2014. Just a few steps further are two other murals (corner Franz-Kühls-Straße/Friedrichstraße) by Aryz (third photo) and the Spanish street art duo PichiAvo (second row, first photo) which were created during the Urban Art Week in 2019. A lot more paintings are hidden around the corner: There is a housing complex (Wilhelmstraße 2-6) covered in portraits of people with different ethnic backgrounds.
My favourite mural shows an elephant with a balloon in form of the earth by the Berliner artist Jadore Tong. It is on the backside of the Tommy-Weisbecker-Haus (Wilhelmstraße 7) in the background of a basketball court and right in front of the Theodor-Wolff-Park. The house is a self-governing residential collective named after the left-wing extremist Thomas Weisbecker. But also a view around the house is worthwhile since all four walls are covered with art.
U-Bahn station Kottbusser Tor
The Astronaut/Cosmonaut (Oranienstraße 195) is part of the project Backjumps – The Live Issue von 2007. The mural was created with help of stencils by the Portuguese artist Victor Ash. The motif was inspired by the Cold War when the USA and the Soviet Union not only started their arms race but also tried to outplay themselves on space technology. The divided city Berlin was part of this conflict between East and West. This is why Ash wanted to place his painting close to the former borderline. The lettering around is not part of the original but was added later by other influencers. The mural is close to the U-Bahn station Kottbusser Tor. On the way, you can also find the older lady with the pelican and coffee in her hand (Skalitzer Straße 134) – This mural is right next to a coffee shop.
The street Schwedter Straße in the district Prenzlauer Berg was repeatedly one of the locations for the One Wall Project. In 2017 the Spanish street artist Deih XLF started with his science-fiction mural (Schwedter Straße 34) where he reflects his introspective of emotions and draws his inner life. One year later the Berlin artist trio Innerfields created another house facade (Schwedter Straße 30) – a cynical observation on digitization and social development. The newest painting links the well-known cartoon character Snoopy with realistic optical illusions (Schwedter Straße 29). The English artist Fanakapan combines two- with three dimensions – a closer look reveals the artist with his smartphone taking a photo as a reflection in the 3D balloon. A little further is the international filling station FIT (Schwedter Straße 261). Not only the petrol station is sprayed but also its walls around. In the pretty side road with buntings is a book store with paintings of a child riding a giraffe and an elephant (Choriner Straße 49).
The street Neheimer Straße in Tegel is the home of four skyscrapers with eight murals on both sides of the houses. They were painted in different years during the One Wall Project. Some of them are already overpainted by new urban artists – these eight murals are the current ones.
The first one Summer of Peace (Bernauer Straße 133/Neheimer Straße 2) was created in 2015 by the Australian FINTAN MAGEE and is inspired by the children’s book A Child’s Garden by Michael Foreman. Around one month later the US-American twin brothers How and Nosm realised their painting On Tiptoes (Neheimer Straße 6) at the Artpark in Tegel.
One year after, in 2016 followed the mural The Starling (Neheimer Straße 6) by the Dutch duo Collin van der Sluijs and Super A. The paintings of the two artists seem often dreamy and surreal. Their chosen motif symbolizes the strength of a collective. Another mural created in 2016 is Lads are back (Neheimer Straße 8) by the English duo The London Police who use bold colours and simply iconic characters to create positive art. Playing Cards (Neheimer Straße 2) painted by the Italien Pixel Pancho followed a few months later. Typical for the artist is his work with earthy colours and robot-like figures.
In 2019 the female Swiss duo Queenkong worked in collaboration with the Polish artist Tankpetrol. Their mural 2268miles & Lunchadora Pachamama (Neheimer Straße 4) combines the work Pilot Girl (on the left side) by Tankpetrol with the naturalistic style of the Swiss duo. The latter points out the importance of the mindfulness for nature.
The newest two projects of the Open Wall at Artpark Tegel followed in 2020. The Berlin painter, illustrator, musician and concept artist Jim Avignon created his mural (Neheimer Straße 8) about an adventure in a balloon and the future between uncertainty and departure. The latest mural from BustArt plays with the style of graffiti-pop and comic. Departure (Neheimer Straße 4) is the name of his painting and is a reference to the former airport in Tegel.
This painting was more of a chance find: On the front side of a parking slot (Donaustraße 94-95) of a supermarket is a huge mural with the theme Brave New World.
Covered in paintings is the front side of a hostel (Stuttgarter Platz 17) in the district Charlottenburg. The house facade was created by the Irish artist Dom Browne.
One of the oldest murals is the one of the ship Phoenix (Wintersteinstraße 20) from 1989 by the Berliner artist Gert Neuhaus – it is in surprisingly good condition especially in the consideration of urban art as ephemeral one.