I’m really backed-up on posts right now, so bare with me as they come in little spurts of ideas. I’ve been traveling Europe with my parents and my little cousin Sierra for the past 3 weeks, combining a hectic schedule, a lot of exhaustion and a lack of WIFI.
A few weeks ago, during our 3-week journey, we decided to take an “alternative tour” of Berlin. I kept hearing that Berlin was the new “trendy” and “hipster” European city, but I wasn’t sure what to look for. I was excited to see what this city had to offer and I hoped this tour would help. Our tour guide, Kim, took us away from the touristy, historical, stuffy city center and back into the lesser-known (by tourists) artsy neighborhoods. Apparently Berlin locals consider this area to be the “real” Berlin that is becoming more and more appealing to the growing hipster crowd.
Witnesses of “real” Berlin, describe its streets as “bombed” with a wide variety of street art styles. This street art phenomenon includes the common spray paint bubble letter graffiti, precise thought out stenciled designs, repeated paste-up artwork and even massive commissioned portraits. The common passerby condemns most of this artwork as familiar city vandalism. Casual observers may not realize that many of these artists actually have a method to their madness.
The origin of this Berlin subculture stems from more than simply reckless vandalism. It dates back to the division of East and West Germany by the Berlin Wall leading into the Cold War. The cosmetic enhancement of the dreary gray concrete wall was part of a movement, which expressed the desire for freedom and the end of the German divide.
During our tour, Kim exposed us to the works of a few of her favorite artists, explained their modern techniques and attempted to interpret the statements made by their work. Smack in front of us, hiding in plain sight, were so many works available to anyone willing to take a closer look. Unique from other art, these artists give everyone an opportunity to decipher their messages, not just the art gallery crowd.
6 (4rtist.com) is probably one of Berlin’s most prominent street artists. He bikes around the city heavily marking his simple tag the “6.” This 6 can be found anywhere from street corners to building walls and even water pipes. There are many explanations as to why this mysterious artist continuously brands Berlin with his series of 6’s. We were given a comical “philanthropic” explanation by our tour guide- “Mr. 6 genuinely believes he improves the Internet connection in all areas where his 6 appears.” Gee thanks Mr. 6!
AKA Mr. Banana Man
At a mere 80 years of age, Mr. Banana Man is still leaving his mark on the city of Berlin. His trademark is a simple stenciled yellow banana. He uses his mark as an unofficial “seal of approval” outside of art exhibits that he has visited and enjoyed, not only in Berlin, but all over the world. If you happen to catch the infamous banana on your way into a gallery, you’re sure to be in for something special.
Mimi the Clown
This French native, world-renowned street artist, is known for his humorous depictions of various characters complemented by a bright red clown nose. His paste-up stencil series comments on politics, making a statement about the sadness of today’s consumerist society.
El Bocho & Little Lucy
My favorite series of all the street art we stumbled across was El Bocho’s “Little Lucy”. El Bocho is also a very well known street artist exhibiting many different series all over the streets of Berlin. His “Little Lucy” series is based on a Czech cartoon from the 70’s picturing a tiny brunette girl victimizing a cat named “Kitti.” Lucy is a very creative killer, taking advantage of Kitti in countless ways- For example: Lucy makes Kitti into one of Europe’s beloved Doner Kebabs.
It’s hard for me to pinpoint why exactly this homicidal little lady captured my affection. Maybe, the sweet name “Little Lucy” had something to do with it. Maybe it’s because she welcomed us to Berlin in our very own apartment rental doorway. Whatever the reason, wherever in Berlin we found ourselves, Little Lucy seemed to follow. Kind of creepy actually, but weirdly charming all the same.
Where to find Berlin Street Art
Well, on the street, of course! Street artists such as these are found all over the city, but popular neighborhoods include Mitte (the historic center), Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg. You can also check out tours such as Sandleman’s Alternative City Tour to learn more about this constantly evolving phenomenon.
For a little hub of accumulated artwork check out the Haus Schwarzenberg. This little narrow alleyway sits right in Berlin’s touristy center of commerce, but has preserved its authentic urban character. It acts as a nonprofit street art collective- anyone can legally display their art on its walls. The Haus Schwarzenberg attracts culture and art lovers from all over the world looking to experience this creative subculture. There’s even a cute little café to sit, have a snack and enjoy the oodles of art surrounding you.
Any other Berlin street art catch someone’s eye? How about street art in any other European cities?
Original source: BERLIN STREET ART- NOT SO HIDDEN GEMS by Lauren on Location
An honest inside look at the life of a 20-something traveler. Currently located in Santiago, Chile