The East Side Gallery, Berlin

The East Side Gallery should be on everybody's bucket list. It's a 1.7km wall, near the centre of Berlin on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, covered in graffiti. Whilst there is nothing out of the ordinary about graffiti covered walls in Berlin, or anywhere around the world for that matter, this wall was once part of the Berlin Wall. The images that are now painted onto the concrete are a stark reminder of how political failings, egotistical greediness and authoritative conflict can affect and ruin the lives of innocent people.

"Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable." - George Bernard Shaw

This gallery is one of the largest and longest-lasting open air galleries in the world, with over 100 artists showcasing their work. Unlike usual galleries, this one does not have a "quiet rule" or an audio tape option or any barriers or "do not touch"signs. Some of the paintings have been vandalised, although art historians and critics would argue that this is part of the art. Whilst some of the vandalism is distasteful - "Sophia woz 'ere 2k13", for instance - some of it was fitting, like the quote "when you start treating people like people, they become people."

The photographs below show my favourite paintings from the wall, which will hopefully give you an insight into what to expect at the East Side Gallery - and convince you to go there when you're next in Berlin.

Mary Mackey was the only US citizen invited to paint on the wall. She moved to Berlin a few months after the wall came down in 1990.

Mary Mackey was the only US citizen invited to paint on the wall. She moved to Berlin a few months after the wall came down in 1990.

Kani Alavi, who moved from Iran to West Berlinin 1980, used to live four metres away from the wall, next to Checkpoint Charlie. This painting, "Es geschah im November", shows thousands of insecure and sad faces of East Berliner's crossing over to the west when the wall came down. He often speaks out about his surprise when he looked closer at the expressions from East Berliners and found fear rather than excitement.

Kani Alavi, who moved from Iran to West Berlinin 1980, used to live four metres away from the wall, next to Checkpoint Charlie. This painting, "Es geschah im November", shows thousands of insecure and sad faces of East Berliner's crossing over to the west when the wall came down. He often speaks out about his surprise when he looked closer at the expressions from East Berliners and found fear rather than excitement.

There was very little that I could find out on Peter Russell. However, this mural is called 'Himmel und Sucher', translated in English as 'Heaven and Seeker'.

There was very little that I could find out on Peter Russell. However, this mural is called 'Himmel und Sucher', translated in English as 'Heaven and Seeker'.

This depicts the most commonly used car in East Berlin, the Trabant, breaking through the Berlin Wall. The quote was originally 'Test The Best' but changed to 'Test The Rest' when the wall was restored in 2009.

This depicts the most commonly used car in East Berlin, the Trabant, breaking through the Berlin Wall. The quote was originally 'Test The Best' but changed to 'Test The Rest' when the wall was restored in 2009.

This striking painting has become one of the most memorable images from my trip to the East Side Gallery, created by Sabine Kunz of East Germany.

This striking painting has become one of the most memorable images from my trip to the East Side Gallery, created by Sabine Kunz of East Germany.

Gabriel Heimler was born, bred and educated in Paris but lived in Berlin for 20 years. This piece, the "Wall Jumper" shows a West German leaping over the wall to buy the East German state companies. I must admit, at first impression I thought this was an East German jumping for freedom - reading further into this, I found that I wasn't the only one.

Gabriel Heimler was born, bred and educated in Paris but lived in Berlin for 20 years. This piece, the "Wall Jumper" shows a West German leaping over the wall to buy the East German state companies. I must admit, at first impression I thought this was an East German jumping for freedom - reading further into this, I found that I wasn't the only one.

As we continued to walk down the wall, we came across this gate of locks. I became attracted to the phenomenal contrast of environment and colours. Hopefully next time we go it'll be a mini version of "love lock bridge" in Paris - emphasis on the "mini". Until then, it's the background for my home screen.

As we continued to walk down the wall, we came across this gate of locks. I became attracted to the phenomenal contrast of environment and colours. Hopefully next time we go it'll be a mini version of "love lock bridge" in Paris - emphasis on the "mini". Until then, it's the background for my home screen.

This is one of the most powerful images on the wall. The artist is Michail Serebrjakow and he's called this piece "Diagonale Lösung des Problems", which according to google translate means "Diagonal solution of the problem". (Please, please, German-speaking readers, correct me if that's wrong.)

This is one of the most powerful images on the wall. The artist is Michail Serebrjakow and he's called this piece "Diagonale Lösung des Problems", which according to google translate means "Diagonal solution of the problem". (Please, please, German-speaking readers, correct me if that's wrong.)

Rosemarie Schinzler, originally from the German city of Freiberg, painted this mural "Wachsen Lassen", showing two doves lifting Brandenburg Gate and a cross.

Rosemarie Schinzler, originally from the German city of Freiberg, painted this mural "Wachsen Lassen", showing two doves lifting Brandenburg Gate and a cross.

When we took a few moments to look at this picture by Alexey Taranin, we stood next to two girls who were debating its meaning. Why did he choose that wall for 'Everywhere'? What's with the animals? Why is Moscow's kangaroo blue? Does Moscow even have kangaroos? Is that even a kangaroo? On first glance, I thought this was easy to interpret, but those girls filled my head with questions and alternative theories too. The kangaroo questions will particularly bug me for a while.

When we took a few moments to look at this picture by Alexey Taranin, we stood next to two girls who were debating its meaning. Why did he choose that wall for 'Everywhere'? What's with the animals? Why is Moscow's kangaroo blue? Does Moscow even have kangaroos? Is that even a kangaroo?

On first glance, I thought this was easy to interpret, but those girls filled my head with questions and alternative theories too. The kangaroo questions will particularly bug me for a while.

This is a harrowing and thought-provoking quote, regardless of the poor English grammar.

This is a harrowing and thought-provoking quote, regardless of the poor English grammar.

Here it is. The famous painting of two men kissing. The painting that people crowded around with their selfie sticks, ipads, phones and DSLRs. Yes, lots of people kissed in front of it - we saw three couples take kissing photos in the space of a minute. And yes, it is even more amazing in the "flesh"/on the wall. The painting, "Mein Gott hilf mir, diese tödliche Liebe zu überleben" (translated to "My God, help me to survive this deadly love" in English) was painted by Dmitri Wrubel. It depicts an iconic photograph of Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker in a socialist fraternal kiss, taken by Régis Bossu in East Berlin on October 7, 1979. 

Here it is. The famous painting of two men kissing. The painting that people crowded around with their selfie sticks, ipads, phones and DSLRs. Yes, lots of people kissed in front of it - we saw three couples take kissing photos in the space of a minute. And yes, it is even more amazing in the "flesh"/on the wall.

The painting, "Mein Gott hilf mir, diese tödliche Liebe zu überleben" (translated to "My God, help me to survive this deadly love" in English) was painted by Dmitri Wrubel. It depicts an iconic photograph of Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker in a socialist fraternal kiss, taken by Régis Bossu in East Berlin on October 7, 1979. 

Aristotle once wrote: "The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance." East Side Gallery is proof of that philosophy. There is no painting that you can walk past, if you're truly looking, and by the end of the walk our heads were filled with a cocktail of melancholic emotions. We were angry with "the man" and sad for humanity.

Turning to take one last look at the wall, I spotted this photoshoot happening in the distance. There's been a lot of scepticism over the years as to how long the East Side Gallery will remain. Although they were not adding anything to the wall itself, it was nice to see new artists create their own work around it - the millennial way.

 

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