East Side Gallery, Berlin

Thursday 26 December 2019. The East Side Gallery, on Mühlenstrasse east of the Spree in Berlin, is a series of murals painted onto a remnant of the Berlin Wall to commemorate the fall of the wall and the reunification of East and West Germany. Despite being a very popular tourist destination its power and resonance remain undiluted. When we visited on Boxing Day (or ‘second Christmas holiday’ in Germany), the famous My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love (the Brezhnev–Honecker kiss) by Dmitri Vrubel (1990, restored 2009) had a large crowd in front of it, while many other, equally compelling works attracted little or no attention. My favourite work was Test the Rest by Birgit Kinder (2009), which features a Trabant, a car mass-produced in East Germany, bursting symbolically through the Berlin Wall. The mural has had a troubled history. Originally called Test the Best and painted (along with the other murals) in 1990, Kinder’s work fell gradually into decrepitude (as did the other murals) following a bureaucratic stalemate over responsibility for the artworks’ upkeep and was subject to continual graffiti attacks. In 1996 and again in 1998 Test the Best was renovated at the artist’s expense, and in 2000 it was completely repainted. Over the next nine years it again became covered in graffiti. In 2009 it was again repainted and given a new name, Test the Rest. The graffiti attacks continued, however, and by 2014 it was yet again covered in tags. Then in 2015 the mural was completely effaced due to a legal issue, and finally reappeared again in 2018.

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