The Berlin Wall gets a facelift

Construction on the Berlin Wall began August 13, 1961, separating families and a nation; it remained in effect until September 11, 1989. Six months later on March 10, 1990 German reunification took place. Today, twenty years later, Berlin and the German nation celebrates a memory when the two were apart.

Tourists pass a painting on a segment of the reopened East Side Gallery in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 6, 2009. The 105 wall paintings of the former Berlin Wall were restored for the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin Wall in Nov. 2009. The same artists from 21 countries who created the paintings in 1990 repainted their pictures in the world's longest open-air art gallery after the concrete surface of the Wall was replaced.

Geir Moulson, Associated Press Writer; Photo: AP Photo/Gero Breloer

When the wall broke open, the influx of East Germans into West Germany was not necessarily all that welcomed, as both sides struggled to form a new alliance and coexist with the historical luggage either side was burdened with. However in recent years Germany began healing its wounds and started taking pride once more in itself as a people and as a nation.

The West German capital that was seated in Bonn since the end of the Second World War was moved back to the city of Berlin where it always had been. The city since has undergone a great change and continues to this day, evolving, reinventing itself as a center of intellectual and artistic importance.

“Test the Best” Trabbi who breaks through the wall, by Birgit Kinder.
Photo: Getty Images

As a reminder of a city divided in two, there still remains a 1316 meters (1439.2 yards) of the Berlin Wall, where 118 artist originally painted a section marking the historic event with a murals of their own design. To celebrate the twenty years since the opening of the wall, the East Side Gallery in Berlin has requested the original 118 international artists to return and restore their art to its former state. Not all artists took up East Side Galleries offer but 86 did and for their work were given 4000 Euro each.

Though I certainly applaud the East Side Gallery for their involvement these last fifteen to twenty years promoting the preservation and education of the remaining Berlin Wall, I do question who is taking part in the renewal of the wall. My concerns is that the remaining section of the Berlin wall is not reserved primarily for German artists, since they are the ones that have been affected directly by the walls prior presence, this would allow the German artists to leave a visual history. I should also note that not one former East German artist had been invited to take part in this event.

This picture was taken August 10, 1991 and artist Dmitri Vrubel 
begins restoring the mural in June of this year.
Photo: (dpa) Jan Bauer

The brotherhood kiss between Honecker and Breshnev by Russian artist Dmitri Vrubel 
is defaced and covered full of graffiti. September 2008
Foto: (dpa) Arno Burgi

As I look at the images that are featured on the East Side Gallery website or other German news media, my personal view is that hardly any section of the restored wall reflects anything like what the wall looked liked when I visited Berlin in 1970 and 1974. What is missing is the graffiti, the political slogans and posters, the anti government remarks, personal messages and memorials to those who died trying to escape Communism. It all has been wiped clean, erasing twenty years of German history as if it never happened and mostly replacing it with contemporary designs.

This is what the wall looked like at Mühlenstraße back in March of 2009, 
having lost all traces of nineteen years of art.
Photo: (ddp) Michael Gottschalk

My views are only a single opinion and have no bearing on the events taking place. I personally do not wish to forget the former appearance these concrete walls held and therefore treasure the painting I painted in honour of the walls opening. You can see the painting at The Artist Within Us and read about my trip through the former East Germany by train.

I recommend a visit to the East Side Gallery website as they have documented the artists refurbishing the 4318 foot wall and you are able to see the individual sections as they are now.
All photographs featured on this post have copyrights belonging to the photographer and/or their representative agency.


Lawendula said...

The wall is part of my life. I was born in Berlin, in 1966 and I lived my early childhood in the shadow of this wall.
What happened 20 years ago was very very unbelievable.
But it must be true, because now I am living in the former GDR, a place I wasn't able to go to, when I was a child.

iNdi@ said...

i remember going into the East in 1969, through Checkpoint Charlie
and how abysmally grey everything seemed
to me at 10 years old
much later
in 1999
Berlin suddenly seemed huge

layers said...

I realize there is a terrible history of the wall, but too bad about the graffiti being lost like that after the wall came down.

Kim said...

Firstly thank you so much for dropping in to my blog and leaving a comment. I love to hear from people everywhere.
On the wall...
I am so glad to finally have read something, somewhere about this significant event! I think it is tragic to have lost the graffiti of the age. Oh it may not look poarticularly pretty but the sentiment expressed there was so heartfelt and passionate about something so significant in our history it is shameful, to me anyway, that it is lost. I do love the art that was done on the remaining sections of the wall and wish it was all still there for everyone to see in it's pristine form. Wonderful social commentary!

jeannette stgermain said...

I lived in Berlin in the 70ties and my oldest daughter was born there. So this post means a lot to me - thank you!
I'll show it to hubby. He has been many times across checkpoint Charlie.