Berlin has undergone an important process of continuous redefinition and change since Unification in 1990. It has now become world-renowned for its international architecture, performing arts and cultural diversity. Berlin is also rated as one of the best places for street art and graffiti.
There is nothing unusual about graffiti-covered walls in Berlin. The city has become a blank canvas for graffiti artists far and wide. The roots of graffiti culture can be traced to West Berlin in the early 1980s, when the American-occupied sector was a reluctant mix of anarchist punks, Turkish immigrants and West German army resisters. Today, Germans accept graffiti in their cities because of the graffiti painted on the Berlin Wall. Once a symbol of division, the preserved sections of the wall now display some of the world’s most famous graffiti.
Graffiti may be vandalism, but it is also celebrated as street art and even considered an integral part of Berliner Strassenkultur. Some 45 street artists from nine countries are taking part in Germany’s largest urban art exhibition, which was extended until the end of August due to overwhelming interest. This is the URBAN AFFAIRS festival. Housed in a post-industrial building, this 900 square meter exhibition space is the perfect venue for Germany’s largest and most comprehensive urban art exhibition to date. This is one of the most interesting showcases of more than 25 international artists in this context. Jochen Kuepper (riot arts), originally from Cologne, is one of the initiators and curators of this ambitious project, which tries to contribute as an alternative platform to backjumps or planetary process, both in larger and more established festivals of street art.
Urban art and street art are experiencing increasing global attention from significant collections, publications and institutions in the established art market, as well as academic re-evaluation of the genre in the context of art history. Works by selected street artists continue to break auction records and the fact that URBAN AFFAIRS contributors El Tono and Nano 4818 are currently exhibiting at London’s Tate Modern symbolizes the stunning development and widespread prominence of this anarchic art movement.
Unlike other cities that have demonized their urban artists, street art is now an integral part of Berlin’s cultural scene. The whole city is canvas. There are so many walls, so many atmospheric buildings. Berlin has become a magnet for artists who create their art on concrete surfaces. Clubs and bars are also often decorated with graffiti. This is such a big contrast from most clubs and bars in the United States. The graffiti makes some travelers suspicious of venturing into such establishments. Street art is attracting increasing global attention from the established art market, with works by its best exponents beginning to break auction house records.