Culture for Dummies: The many colours and messages of East Side Gallery


With its plain title the East Side Gallery could be anywhere. But despite its simple, understated name, the gallery is in fact a one of a kind. So what is the East Side Gallery? It’s open air, covers a 1.3km stretch and is predominantly concrete. It is, of course, the remnants of the Berlin Wall.

Born out of the reunification of 1989, the art that covers the old Wall was produced by hundreds of artists who flocked from all over the world. While some are little more than abstract shapes, most tell a political message – detailing the numbers dead or depicting Cold War leaders kissing.

In the two decades since their creation many of the paintings have deteriorated, their vibrant colours faded and flaked off or coated with graffiti.

With funding most have been restored to their former glory and today the 1980s cars leaping out  of the wall look as fresh as ever.

Today the Gallery retains its poignancy. Located in the industrial and sparse East Berlin, the old West and East split in many ways still feels startlingly recent.

The messages of the original artists and the post-Cold War spirit live on: whether it’s small people with small things changing the face of the world or simply “no more wars. No more walls. A united world”.

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