THE EAST SIDE GALLERY
The East Side Gallery is a portion of the Berlin Wall of approximately 1,3 km. It is located along the river which crosses Berlin, The Spree.
At this spot of the town, the border between the east and the west of the town were the edge of the river.
The river itself belonged to East-Berlin. The GDR which was not able to place the wall on the west shore of the river, asked the soldiers to build only one wall but withdrawal the east shore.
The guards of the border, to replace the no man's land, made instead patrols with grey speedboats on the river, 24 hours a day, going very near to the edge of the shore, to show the enemies where is the border.
That´s why this section of the Berlin Wall, inaccessible for the West-Berliners, was not painted and remained grey until the beginning of 1990.
This wall, considering its length, its greyness and its position along a large avenue, attracted after January 1990, all kinds of posters and advertising about any kind of concerts, events, parties, and films...
What a pity to see that historical part of the Berlin Wall, covered by posters and adds. Several people of East Berlin, and Christine Mac Lean, from the culture department of the British Embassy in East-Berlin, had the idea and the opportunity to create a company, charged with the organisation of the painting of this portion of the wall.
From may 1990 and until october of the same year, more than 100 artists of various nationalities were invited to paint a more or less large part of this grey wall.
It was baptised "East Side Gallery", "the gallery on the side east", to recall that this wall had been side east of Berlin. That is also in homage to the art galleries of New York which all are in the same district of "East Side".
Each artist received a given place and left during 5 years his royalties to the organisers of the East Side Gallery.
On the other hand, it was planted that each artist received 500 DM, for 5 years of compensation of the royalties. The majority of the artists had to make a lawsuit against the company to become the money, the other artists did not get anything.
That left a bitter taste to the artists, they saw the postcards, the posters and the tee-shirts produced by the company, and sold whereas they always had to run after their 500 DM.
The consequence was that the artists were immediately demobilised in their desires of renovating their paintings of the East Side Gallery, which after a few months started to worsen.
The cars and the trucks which drive on the broad avenue along the wall release exhaust fumes, the tourists write their names or a message over the paintings, some remove pieces of concrete to resell them.
All these reasons as well the bad quality of colours given to the artists by the company charged with the organisation in 1990, make that almost all the paintings of East Side Gallery were rapidly completely destroyed.
However this portion of the Berlin Wall is as significant for the history of Berlin as the Church of the Memory, half destroyed by the bombs but preserved in the middle of the town, after the end of the war of 1939-1945.
It is important for the young generations that they see this long part of the Berlin Wall, just like it is, to realise how horrible that border was, to make them taking conscious, to think about not to do the same mistake one more time.
The wall was not just a painted concrete wall but a deadly machine, a sort of big crocodile ready to kill people at any time.
Some artists of the East Side Gallery like Thierry Noir, Kani Alavi, or Günther Schaefer decided not to resign and organise regularly an action to restore the paintings of the East Side Gallery.
Despite every prohibition and the difficulties of the organisation, they succeeded to motivate, a score of artists ready to give a signal against the indifference of the history, and to leave a testimony for the future generations.
The East Side Gallery, a 1300 meters long and 3,60 meters high concrete wall, is probably the longest open-air gallery of the world. It speaks with its paintings the history of Berlin, Germany and Europe.