After putting the man through the Berlin Philharmonic Survivor challenge last night (which he failed miserably and would have been instantly voted off the island), it was an easier task today. We were going to spend some time viewing the open art galleries of Berlin or in other words, Street art. Berlin has a reputation for this, not the least East Side Gallery, so there was plenty to see. The difficulty of course was finding them. He unsurprisingly took the path of least resistance and suggested signing up for a tour. This way, we only have to find our way to the front door of our hotel where a huge tour bus will pick us up together with fifty other tourists and we then leave all decision making to the bus driver and not to have worry about a single thing.
He also knew this was not going to happen. We’ve been through this before. More than once. So, he knew that I had already done all the research, worked out where to go, how to get there and what we were going to see. Besides, he also knows that it is so much more interesting this way. And that is a big part of what I enjoy about traveling. Half the fun is actually in the planning!
So, I had also planned to have a proper breakfast this morning and the place we were going to try out was KaDeWe, a large department store near us. As a matter of fact, large is probably an understatement. It is actually the BIGGEST department store in Continental Europe with apparently 40,000 visitors each day! And the 6th and 7th floors are shrines to two football fields of food. The 6th floor alone has 30 gourmet counters manned by over a hundred cooks which will send any foodie dizzy with delight. The 7th floor extends this and includes a winter garden with window walls offering a view over the Wittenbergplatz.
This all sounded deliciously exciting as we hurried along in the cold winter morning to foodie heaven. Naturally, we were early of course and arrived just as the doors open. We made a beeline straight up to the top floor expecting to be overcome with smells and aromas from every continent. Instead, it was a much more sedate affair. The food and variety on offer was there but unfortunately, breakfast is only the tip of the iceberg. A lot of the gourmet counters were still closed on the 6th floor. Hence, we knew we were missing out and to get the whole deal, we really have to be back here for lunch! Nevertheless, we enjoyed seated under the glass windows in the winter garden and took a leisurely breakfast before starting the rest of our day.
It was then a short walk to the train station where as usual, it took us a bit of time to work out the best fare we should be getting and then we jumped onto a train to Bulowstrasse. This is actually not a place but a street in Berlin . It is easy to get to and you can take the U-bahn to either Nollendorfplatz or Bulowstrasse. Either way, once you arrive, just walk towards the direction of Urban Nation, which is situated in between both stations. This is what we have come to see. Urban Nation is a young network of artists that are heavily involved in the street art scene.
It is here that you will see some incredible works especially of their Project M. Along the street also, you find lots of street art by other artists. I will try and call out those that I am aware of and give credit where it is due. Here is what we found:
I know that artists often look for blank canvasses in the city but when you are invited to paint a wall of a building, that is something altogether. It is impossible to miss this when you walk up to it. I was literally taken away by this beautiful piece of work.
The artist for this mural is Li-Hill based in Toronto. Combining his degree in Fine Arts with graffiti and mural painting, he uses illustration, stenciling and sculptural elements. He has had works shown in national institutions like the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and my very own National Gallery of Victoria right here in Melbourne!
This piece is done by the two founding members of the London Police. The London Police are known for their ‘Lads’ characters but have since come and gone. Believe it or not, the circles are done without compasses, guides or masks. One of them has the unique ability to draw circles ‘freehand’! Whilst the other has a different style altogether composed of just line drawings.
A piece by another duo going by the name Herakut. “Hera” is Jasmin Siddiqui from Frankfurt and “Akut” is Falk Lehman from Schmalkalden. As you can tell, they have a humanitarian approach to art with more than half of their work dedicated to charity causes. To date, they have published two books on street art spanning seven years. Their goal is to beautify dark city spaces and instill positive signs of life and thought.
Finally, the last work for this post is by Shepard Fairey. He is likely the old man of street art and started of his career with the “Obey Giant” sticker campaign in 1989 which you can still see around today all over the world! There are even t-shirts. But it was in 2008, with his Obama Hope poster in red and blue colours that shot him to fame. His works have been exhibited in numerous institutions since including the Smithsonian and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)