Destruction of the Berlin Wall
Art on This Day
Today marks the anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Thierry Noir is a French artist who is claimed to be the first street artist to paint it.
For five years he painted the Wall illegally every day with bold, cartoon-like images of animals and human faces. With little money and no stable employment, he scavenged emulsion from building sites to paint the wall in an act of protest to “transform it, make it ridiculous, and help destroy it”.
His aim was to paint the Berlin Wall to make it stand out like a mutation in the city, not to make it a beautiful piece of public art. “I wanted to cover the wall with colours to wrap it up with paintings, to make it luminous, to show it like a mutation in the city, a mutation in art and nature,” he says. “I could not make the wall beautiful because in fact it would have been absolutely impossible to do so.”
His painting style developed during his time in West Berlin due to the ongoing threat of getting caught by patrol guards or, in some cases, German Democratic Republic soldiers. At one point during his five-year painting protest, Noir and his partner Christophe-Emmanuel Bouchet were held up by soldiers with machine guns after they tried to drill a metal door onto the wall with screws. In order to paint quickly and avoid arrest, Noir simplified his figures into one continuous line painted with one or two bright colours, what he calls the “Fast Form Manifest”.
When the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989, he says he felt no sadness about the destruction of five year’s work. “I was not crying because my world was pulled down, it would be arrogant to say that. It was not an art project, it was a deadly border. One hundred and thirty six people were killed because of the wall – everyone was just happy that it went away.”
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