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East Side Gallery in Berlin

Running some 1.3 kilometres, the East Side Gallery is the world’s longest open-air gallery.

© dpa/Hans Wiedl - East Side Gallery

Along Mühlenstrasse in Berlin’s Friedrichshain district runs the longest continuous piece of the Berlin Wall to have defied all the upheavals: the East Side Gallery. As early as 1990 the proposal by the then already united German artists’ associations was taken up to have the section of the Wall painted by artists from all over the world as the first art project by a united Germany. Swiftly, more than 100 paintings arose, some of them having since become world-famous icons.

The world-famous “Fraternal Kiss”

For example, Russian artist Dmitri Vladimirovich Vrubel contributed “My God, help me to survive this deadly love” depicting the brotherly kiss between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker. French painter Thierry Noir, who had painted the Wall illegally well before reunification, came up with “Homage to the young generation”. In 1991, the strip of the Wall was declared part of the national heritage. At the time, the East Side Gallery consisted of 106 images on 832 concrete sections, each 1.20 metres wide and 3.60 metres high. In 2009, 101 paintings were restored by the Initiative East Side Gallery founded by artist Kani Alavi, a native Iranian.

Not that calm has set in on the Wall where once soldiers patrolled, under orders to shoot anyone crossing. Firstly, the restoration efforts of recent years have come in for criticism. Some artists feel the rejuvenation of their works constitutes a violation of their copyright. Moreover, in 2013 fierce protests flared up against a project for a high-rise behind the Wall and the related further destruction of the monument. Now the world-famous section of the Wall is set to be relocated to Berlin’s southern city limits. Leaving the question as to whether the open-air gallery will then, as the “South Side Gallery”, retain its original appeal as a memorial to German Unity.