Berlin is cool. That phrase almost goes without saying as millions of people from all over the globe flock to the German capital each year. And there are a million cool things to do in Berlin! After the fall of the wall and the city was reunited, the city soon became a sanctuary for artists and creative types — a lifestyle that was smashed as much as it could be in East Berlin and the former Soviet Union. As such, Germany’s capital has been known to attract those who lead an alternative lifestyle, making Berlin street art some of the best in the world.
Living in East London, Michael and I are no strangers to awesome street art. However, it’s something that we always look for no matter where we are and Berlin is a utopia for those seeking to see what people from all over the globe have added to the city’s walls. Here are nine pieces of Berlin street art to look out for on your next trip to this fascinating and dynamic city!
1. The Dancing Women (and some men)
Berlin is a great place to party, again that is no secret of the great German city. However, if you happen to be dancing to the wee hours of the night, you might find yourself as the topic of one of most ubiquitous pieces of Berlin street art: The Dancing Women.
In an effort to bring back the days of Berlin past, where people would dance and party on the streets and not just in night clubs, an artist started photographing women dancing in clubs and glueing these photos to walls all around the city.
Initially, the artist only included women in his art. However, in the past year or so, men have begun to make appearances in these pieces all around the city. You are bound to come across this particular piece of Berlin street art and they are often accompanied with colourful confetti with the caption “time to dance.”
2. Lucy and her Cat
There is a popular Czech cartoon about a little girl called Lucy who goes on adventures with her beloved pet cat. At one point, however, a German artist who grew up reading these comics decided to give the character his own spin on the pet/owner relationship. Which is why you will see Lucy all over Berlin street art…finding creative ways to kill her cat.
If you see Lucy on the streets of Berlin, you know that her cat won’t be far. Take a look, and you see the cat with a noose around its neck, with a bullet through its head, brutally decapitated, or something else equally creative and dark. There are times when you may see Lucy, but the cat might be on the other side of the street. You can bet he’s going to be dead. I’m guessing the artist is a dog person…
3. Cigarette Packets
Conversely to the art found in London, Berlin street art rarely gets political. One of the pieces that contradicts this, however, are photos of cigarette packets. The artist behind this bit of art uses the warning caption traditionally found on cigarettes to make a snarky social statement. For instance, photos of Ronald McDonald with a malnourished African child, with the warning label stating “capitalism causes starvation.” It makes you think…
4. Homeless Faces
Berlin, not being a particularly wealthy city, unfortunately has quite a large homeless population. One artist, tired of the apathetic view that the citizens of Berlin took upon these people, decided to showcase them in his art. While many people tend not to give a second glance to the homeless man begging on the street, this artist decided to photograph them — creating one of the most intriguing pieces of Berlin street art.
He will post a blown up photo of a member of Berlin’s homeless population on the city’s walls, forcing the more fortunate members of society to see the poverty on their own doorstep. It’s done something to humanise the homeless of Berlin…something that very much needs to happen.
5. Rubbish Sculptures
One of the cool things about Berlin street art (and it’s all really cool) is that it’s not solely contained to paint and paper. One prime example of this comes in the form of sculpture…made from your trash. An artist, tired of the culture of waste in the western world, decided to make art from our discarded rubbish and the results are fascinating. He has made some beautiful sculptures scattered about the city, and street art like this is one thing that I believe is unique to Berlin.
6. Your Ugliest Feature
Everyone has something about their appearance that he or she doesn’t like. Maybe your nose is bigger than most, maybe you have crooked teeth or unruly eyebrows. No one is perfect, but one artist wanted to showcase these “ugly” features in an attempt to reveal that beauty can be found anywhere.
In a particularly interesting bit of Berlin street art, one artist has approached many people asking to photograph what they believe to be their ugliest feature. He then puts all of these features together in a bit of photoshop magic to make one beautiful face — to show that these features are not ugly at all. They are what make you unique and beautiful.
Do you believe that there are life forms on other planets who are heading toward Earth? So does an Aussie artist and he has made his mark in the Berlin street art scene by painting little green aliens all over the city. There really is no other point to this piece of art other than, apparently, to raise awareness that aliens are coming…if that something that you believe.
Think that the Berlin street art scene is reserved only for the young and hip? Think again. Something that you’ll definitely notice on the streets of Germany’s capital is the painted number 6 at waist level. The story behind this is cute — they are done by an eighty-year-old man on his bicycle who rides around with a can of paint and a brush, painting the number 6 as he cycles by.
No one knows why he chose this particular number…maybe it’s just his favourite. Nonetheless, it is a nice piece of art and reminder that Berlin’s art scene doesn’t discriminate, not in age or anything else. Now if only there were more female artists!
As I mentioned earlier, one thing that makes Berlin street art unique is that it’s not limited to paint. One shining example of this would be the little colourful elephants you’ll see scattered throughout the city. These elephants vary in size and if you happen to find one of the small ones, you can easily remove it from the wall. There will almost always be a piece of paper behind it with the URL to the artist’s website…you are meant to keep the little elephant and photograph it wherever in the world that little piece of Berlin street art might turn up, then post it to the site! Now that would be an awesome souvenir!
Keep in mind, however, that it is nearly impossible to remove the bigger elephants from the walls. They are meant to live on the streets in Berlin as long as the city will have them.
Obviously, there are a number pieces of Berlin street art to look out for, but these are nine of the most ubiquitous. We learned a lot of this from Alternative Berlin’s walking tour, which gives an in depth look at Berlin’s art scene while also introducing the history and culture of areas not typically on the tourist path.
What’s your favourite piece of Berlin street art? Let us know in the comments!