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  • Berlin Wall Fence

Berlin Installs a Security Fence to Protect East Side Gallery Wall from the Vandals

November 6, 2015
Anika Dačić graduated in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory from the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade and is currently pursuing MA in Literary and Cultural Studies. Her interests lie in social and cultural aspects of contemporary art production and she especially enjoys writing about street and urban art. Likes to knit, play adventure video games and host quiz nights at a local bar.

In 1961, the citizens of Berlin saw the placement of the barbed wire fence, separating two sides of the city. The wire fence grew up to be the legendary Berlin Wall, the largest political barrier in the world. This year ironically, Berlin officials will introduce a new fence, not to divide the residents, but to keep what is left of this monument from tourists, souvenir hunters, and graffiti vandals. The initiative to protect what is now the biggest public art gallery in Europe is surely a great idea when it comes to the preservation of national heritage, but for the older citizens of Berlin this new fence surely awakes some unpleasant memories.

Berlin Wall Fence
Thierry Noir mural for East Side Gallery covered in scribbles. Photo via archdaily.com.br

The Importance of East Side Gallery

After the fall of the Berlin wall back in 1989, much of the construction was destroyed, for obvious reasons. People were celebrating their newly found freedom and reuniting with their fellow-citizens. However, a 1,3 km section stayed as a reminder of those not very cheerful moments in history and starting from 1990, artists from all around the world were called to participate in one of the most important public art projects in Europe, painting what is left of the wall and creating one of the largest public galleries. East Side Gallery encompasses approximately 100 murals by some of the world’s leading talents like Thierry Noir and Jim Avignon among many others.The East Gallery is nowadays seen as the biggest memorial to the world piece, and it attracts more than 3 million of tourists a year.

Berlin Wall Fence
Graffiti over Dmitri Wrubel’s iconic mural depicting Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kissing. Photo via paganforum.com

Welcome to Berlin and Please Take a Piece of our Wall

As much as tourists contribute to the city economy once they get to the monument they become menaces, rather than appreciating works of art from the distance. It is not only that they take selfies, enjoy art and be reminded of the history, but most of them usually like to bring the physical evidence of their visit to Berlin. Over the years, tourists have been scratching the walls, scribbling their names and chipping off some pieces of concrete as souvenirs. Things are not much different when it comes to graffiti writers. To be clear, the nature of street art implies that walls are free for all and anyone can paint or tag wherever he/she likes or finds convenient. However, without any respect for the murals, graffiti tags on the walls of East Side Gallery became a common thing in the past years. In 2009, the city started the restoration works, calling the artists who painted the walls in the nineties to participate in the project. The struggle for the preservation of the walls also continues daily, as technicians try to wash away graffiti and fill up the holes with plaster. But these daily routines are not enough and Berlin officials have decided that the permanent fence is the right way to go.

Berlin Wall Fence
In recent times Berlin authorities have installed temporary fences to protect some of the legendary murals, but they will replace them with permanent ones in the following months. Photo via demanjo.com

Fenception in Berlin

Until the end of this year, we can expect to see the fence which will keep the visitors away from the murals and spoil that nice tourist selfies. The city officials warn that without a fence which will keep the artworks safe from the vandals the Gallery will be completely destroyed by the end of the decade. On the other side, the decision seems a bit absurd if we have in mind the historic context. The remains of the Berlin Wall are now a symbol of freedom and what is the message the city officials are sending when they try to install a fence around that very same wall that kept East Berlin citizens from entering the other side. And given the fact that Europe is now experiencing one of the biggest migrant crisis in the last couple of decades, the fence might trigger some other unwanted signals. Anyway, as ironic as it may seem, the decision is official and the fence will definitely see the light of day by the beginning of 2016.

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Featured image: Temporary fence in front of East Side Gallery. Photo via voanews.com