Berlin’s Graffiti Art


Graffiti and spray can

The tool, spray can, is left at the scene

You don’t have to walk more than a few blocks in Berlin and you will find it – graffiti.  This form of art has me confused  – I’m not really sure how I feel about it.  Most of the time I’m annoyed that the brilliant European cities that I love are covered in graffiti  – it actually enrages me.  However I also see that some of it is absolutely beautiful and oozes creativity  – as well as normally being clever which I greatly appreciate.  But for some reason in Berlin I leaned on the ‘pro’ side of the fence.  As I walked throughout the city the graffiti captivated me.  Colorful scenes were painted out on drab run down buildings, clever messages were in places you least expected them.  For some reason graffiti looked good in Berlin.

Smashing Magazine produced a great piece detailing the origin and history of the Berlin street art scene if you’d like to learn more about this ‘bombed’ city.  In the article, The Heritage of Berlin Street Art and Graffiti Scene it attributes Berlin’s street art longevity to tourism.

Art critic Emilie Trice has called Berlin “the graffiti Mecca of the urban art world.” While few people would argue with her, the Berlin street scene is not as radical as her statement suggests. Street art in Berlin is a big industry. It’s not exactly legal, but the city’s title of UNESCO’s City of Design has kept local authorities from doing much to change what observers call the most “bombed” city in Europe. From the authorities’ point of view, the graffiti attracts tourists, and the tourists bring money to a city deep in debt.

As I walked around the city as a tourist – I found some great designs and placement that caught my eye.  It’s hard not to.  Here are some of my favorites.

Emotional graffiti

Graffiti with emotion behind an apartment building in Berlin

Graffiti on the side of a building

A large ‘canvas’ to work with

Inside Tacheles Berlin

Inside an abandoned building turned ‘art space’ – Tacheles

Graffiti on the Berlin Wall

Graffiti near the Berlin Wall Memorial. Vantage point is everything with this image.

An abandoned building is riddled with tags

An abandoned printing company now has people ‘printing’ on the walls

Park graffiti

Park graffiti – no place is left untagged

Tacheles stairway

Tacheles is covered with layers and layers of paint


Your Comments

16 Comments so far

  1. Like you, Sherry, I’m not sure how I feel about it but most f the time I don’t like it. During my last visit to Pokhara, Nepal, there was a group of men going around to the stores and convincing them to allow their walls to be spray painted with “street art.”In this case, it was stylized letters that were the artists initials, which I found disgusting.If you want to make art, make art.

  2. Ann says:

    I’m a huge fan of street art. Although I would say the ‘face in hands’ and ‘hand and wings’ murals count as street art; the others are graffiti tagging. The East Side Gallery (east side of Berlin Wall) has some amazing paintings.

  3. Alison says:

    I’m against senseless tagging and defacing of property however I think true graffiti art can be just as legitimate as any other art form. I had the chance to meet a couple of ‘street artists’ here in Brussels and talking with them about their work really opened my eyes. A few globally known street artists come from Belgium and there are some incredible works here on buildings that would otherwise be abandoned industrial eye-sores. Walking through cities like Berlin and Lisbon you can see this art taken to a whole other level. I think the key is intention… and of course permission.

  4. I think there is a fine line between vandalism and art. I love graffiti as an art form, but teenagers spraying obscenities on public transportation or private property crosses the line.

    Abandoned buildings are fair game in my view.

    Cool pictures by the way!

  5. “street Art” over the years has evolved from simple graffiti to stunning murals and complex outdoor art installations. I’m not the biggest fan of graffiti-style art, however I can spend HOURS gawking over those amazing street art murals. When I went to Berlin, I spent most of my time hunting down and taking photos of street art. I did the same when I was in Melbourne. Half of iPhoto albums are a huge collection of street art from everywhere. The thing with street art is that it’s here today, gone tomorrow. I like to think of it as capturing a “rare” piece, that probably will no longer be there next week, month, or year.

  6. Kath says:

    Your work is so refreshing. You shoot so many interesting thing.

  7. Christina says:

    We are headed to Berlin next week. I don’t know – I don’t think I really like all of the graffiti here in Europe. Maybe it’s just shocking to us being from the States and not seeing is as much.

  8. JoAnna says:

    Beautiful, colorful artwork! I especially like the hands.

  9. Ed says:

    These photos are fantastic. Nice work.

  10. Katie says:

    I’ve come to love street art, mostly thanks to my time in Berlin. I’m not usually into museums and I’m not a huge art fan but I find the art in Berlin so beautiful and interesting because of its context. It turns unremarkable streets into open air galleries. I’m still not crazy about the tagging style of graffiti but after taking a street art tour and learning more about it (like how the artists have used super soakers and fire extinguishers to paint) I have more respect for it as art.

  11. So excited, I am heading to Berlin next week for a stag do. I can’t believe I’ve not been to this wonderful city before as I’ve heard so much about it. Will keep my eye out for the brilliant street art!

  12. Sherry I was in Berlin a few weeks ago, and I am a huge fan of street art all over the world. There is a huge difference between street art and graffiti as I learned while I was in Berlin through a tour you can take called Alternative Tours. It was one of the best tours I have taken while on my RTW Career Break.

  13. Mark H says:

    I see too much of graffiti being pure vandalism. While some is staggeringly talented and beautiful, a lot is little more than tagging someone’s front fence or a city’s favourite building. It is a subtle difference and probably varies for each individual but the idea of daubing paint across valued buildings and sites doesn’t do a lot for me.

  14. Sometimes I see graffiti in the most inappropriate places such as museums or old historical buildings, which are not at all related to any form of art. And that does make me mad. But there are also excellent drawings on old or abandoned buildings that I believe give so much color to a city otherwise gray.

  15. Brad Bernard says:

    A great post, Sherry. I’ve featured it in my Best Travel Experiences.
    I love graffiti art. Banksy is my favorite…
    I love his quote on the back of his book: “There’s no way you’re going to get a quote from us to use on your book cover” -Metropolitan Police Spokesperson-

    • Sherry says:

      Thanks Brad! I love Banksy. I was in NYC when he was there this year. I followed his instagram feed and was even able to find some of his work. It was like a scavenger hunt!

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