Once the Berlin Wall

The longest open-air gallery in the world, the East Side Gallery in Berlin takes a significant era of Germany’s history and turns it into a work of art. Telling the story of the Berlin Wall, the East Side Gallery is 1.3 kilometres of fascinating images. There’s Honecker and Brezhnev in a fraternal embrace and Birgit Kinder’s Trabant breaking through the wall, to the many untitled but equally as impactful creations. Located on the banks of the Spree in Friedrichshain, it is the longest section of the Berlin Wall still in existence.

The artists

As soon as the Berlin Wall began to fall 1989, 118 artists from 21 countries got to work decorating the East Side Gallery in Berlin. In over 100 images painted directly on the wall, overcoming the Iron Curtain in Europe and the reunifying of Berlin is celebrated. A year after completion it was given protected memorial status.

The restoration

As the East Side Gallery in Berlin is completely exposed to weather erosion, continuous efforts are made to restore the paintings. But this has been met with some conflict. Several of the artists from 1990 have refused to repaint their own images that were destroyed during renovation, and have founded an initiative to defend the copyright. The Courts are yet to decide whether the art should be listed as destroyed and then simply re-copied without the respective artists’ permission.


Other interesting facts about the East Side Gallery in Berlin

  • The paintings of the East Side Gallery in Berlin were originally planned to be shown as part of a touring exhibition, then sold off at auction.
  • David Hasselhoff joined a protest demanding that sections of the East Side Gallery not be removed to make way for an upscale building project.
  • The famous Fraternal Kiss image is based on a photograph taken in 1979 of Leonid Brezhnev, the General Secretary of the Soviet Union at the time, and Erich Honecker, the General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of the GDR.