Click on photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The East Gallery, Berlin

The quality of the art is admittedly erratic. Images are mostly political, sometimes humorous, often perceptive, ironic, arty, erotic, profound, even just plain ugly. Some of it lasts only a few weeks. The best came shortly after the fall and somehow continues to survive.
One might consider it the last place in the world you'd expect to find art. In fact, most Americans are probably unaware it still exists. In returning from our recent trip to northern Europe, I mentioned to some friends the Berlin wall and the "cutting edge," indeed, hard-edged, art now occupying the East side of the old cold war landmark. Their reaction was, "Gee, I thought they tore that thing down." In general, that thought is correct.  Most of the 96 miles of reinforced concrete which at one time completely encircled West Berlin has come down. However, of the 27 miles which once cut through the central portion of Berlin, approximately one mile of the wall remains. And here, along the former East Berlin side is what has come to be known as the "East Gallery." If in reading this, you visualize a mile of ugly, random graffiti, then, as our guide put it in terse, thickly accented words, "Think again."

Test the Best, 1990 (2009 restoration),
Birgit Kinder
Test the Best before its most recent restoration.
There is graffiti. Even the best of the painted wall sections have a distinct cultural lineage to such mostly disreputable "art." Moreover, even the best art to be seen on the wall is likewise prone to desecration by graffiti. Birgit Kinder, has repainted her iconic Test the Best (above) four times since its original creation in 1990. In so doing, she has assured its survival, which probably accounts for why it has become iconic. The mural features an old East German Tabant auto crashing through the wall in a satiric auto ad "promoting" a car our guide referred to a stinky plastic toy.

Brotherly Kiss, 1990, Dimitri Vrubel. Artists not only boldly sign their work, but
often include their websites and even telephone numbers.
The wall artists paint in virtually every style from Pissarro to Picasso with heavy emphasis on cubism and abstract expressionism. Perhaps the most famous image from the East Gallery is neither of these. Russian artist, Dimitri Vrubel's Brotherly Kiss (1990) depicts in close-up living color a passionate kiss between former Russian President Leonid Brezhnev and former East German Communist party boss, Erich Honecker. The caption below, in Russian and German reads: "My God, help me to survive this deadly love affair." The wall, during its nearly 30 years of existence, was, indeed, a daily testament to the survival of the East German people, and to the death of around 200 out of the nearly 5,000 who attempted to cross it.
Even in being converted to an art gallery (of sorts) the wall continues to have a
rather dismal quality...or maybe it was just the typical Berlin spring weather.

No comments:

Post a Comment