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BLU in Berlin – Past and Present

Shackled By Time and Take Off That Mask: Street Art by BLU in BerlinIf you’ve been to Berlin, the chances are you’ve seen BLU’s work. His Street Art murals are both visually striking and on a massive scale.

These pieces on Cuvrystrasse in Kreuzberg are visible from the Oberbaumbrücke and impossible to miss if you’re taking a boat trip along this part of the Spree.

BLU hails from Bologna in Italy and has been honing his Street Art since 1999.  He has travelled extensively and his paintings have adorned walls in Central and South America and the West Bank as well as numerous locations across Europe.

All of the pieces I have seen in Berlin have been in Kreuzberg.

Big Baby: Street Art by BLU in Berlin Hourglass: Street Art by BLU in Berlin Take Off That Mask: Street Art by BLU in Berlin Shackled By Time: Street Art by BLU in Berlin Berlin Wall: Street Art by BLU in Berlin

You can see more of BLU’s work on his website and Facebook page and you should check out this incredible video of the artist at work on one of the Cuvrystrasse pieces.

Update: Berlin is BLU and there’s nothing we can do

The two giant BLU murals on the Cuvrybrache in Berlin are no more.  They were painted over on the night of 11 December 2014.

Marc Honninger witnessed a pair of cherry pickers approaching the artwork and live tweeted the progress as they blacked out the two walls.

Initial reactions were along the lines of ‘here we go again’, ‘Berlin doesn’t know what’s good for it’, ‘the city shouldn’t do this’, ‘another example of gentrification ruining Berlin’.

It was a post from Dmitry Paranyushkin for Polysingularity appearing in my Facebook feed that alerted me to what was happening, in which he suggested that it was BLU himself who was responsible.

And it is not the city of Berlin doing that, neither it is the real estate developers who want to build a new residential complex at this empty spot.

In fact, it is being done by the people related to BLU — the artist who made this painting.

With his consent.

BLU made the following statement in a post on his blog the day after the murals were painted over:

In 2007 and 2008 I painted two walls at Cuvrystraße in Berlin (with the support of Lutz, Artitude and its volunteers).

In 2014, after witnessing the changes happening in the surrounding area during the last years, 
we felt it was time to erase both walls.

The land in front of the murals had for some time been the site of a ramshackle hotchpotch of tents and cobbled together huts until a fire in September forced the residents to evacuate.  The police stepped in to stop them returning the next day and the area was fenced off in preparation for development.

It is clear from the reactions on Social Media that the BLU murals at the Cuvrybrache were a much-loved element of the fabric of Berlin.  Many people are upset that they have been taken away.

However, an online petition to have the artwork placed under Denkmalschutz (protected monument status) had gathered less than 8,000 signatures in the last 3 months.

It is also interesting to note that the replacement of another Berlin piece by BLU, the large hourglass on Oberbaumstrasße, with advertising, raised barely a whimper.

Not BLU - Advertising in place of a Street Art Mural in Berlin

I’m disappointed that the pieces were painted over and staring up at two large black blocks on the morning after the removal was mildly depressing but street art is not meant to be permanent.

Painted Black - Former BLU Street Art on the Cuvrybrache in Berlin

You could even argue that the new black walls are a form of street art, BLU’s commentary on what he feels is happening to this part of Berlin – an extension of his previous artworks about the rise of capitalism and consumerism in the reunited city.

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14 Responses to BLU in Berlin – Past and Present

  1. tokyomike55 1 May, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    This is why I love WordPress already. They make it easy to connect people with similar interests. Thanks to your post on my blog, I was able to see Berlin as it is today! And I love Blu’s art! This makes me want to get back there more than ever! Great post!

    • andBerlin 1 May, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

      I know exactly what you mean. For me, it’s great to see Berlin as it was. It has changed so much in the 3 years since my first visit and the pace of the change only quickens. You should come back for a visit. I would love to see your views on what has changed for the better/worse.

      • tokyomike55 1 May, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

        It’s now officially on my map of places to see…again. I’m thinking of doing Europe in the summer of 2013, assuming the Mayans got it wrong and we’re all still around. lol

      • andBerlin 1 May, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

        Ha ha *fingers crossed*!

  2. KPdesign 1 May, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Awesome – I had seen the ‘headless business man’ and had no idea it was also BLU..great stuff!

    • andBerlin 1 May, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

      KP, I’m so pleased you saw the post and liked it, as it was BLU that introduced me to your blog in manner of speaking!

      • KPdesign 1 May, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

        Appropriately ironic 😉 More BLU and Berlin for both of us!

  3. fotoeins 2 May, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    I’ve seen that piece on Cuvrystrasse before, but I have no idea why I did *not* make a photograph. The piece of work made a big impression as I stood there for a good 15 minutes or so, looking up and down, getting up close, watching from afar … but I must’ve had a brain cramp which somehow “prevented” taking out said camera and pressing the shutter button. 😉 Thanks for highlighting BLU’s work!

    • andBerlin 2 May, 2012 at 9:02 am #

      Henry, I’ve suffered from the same affliction before. It’s so annoying when you look back at your photos and think ‘now where’s that photo I took of…ah that’s right, I didn’t take one!

  4. Spiller 8 May, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    Hi – thanks for your comment and likes on my blog – I’m VERY pleased to discover your blog because I’m going to Berlin next week for the first time so will look forward to discovering all the fabulous sights and things you’ve blogged about here. Thank you,

    • andBerlin 8 May, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

      What great timing! I hope you love Berlin as much as I do. If I can help you at all with your sightseeing plans please get in touch. If you’re a chocolate fan, check out my post on Fassbender & Rausch – it’s chocolate Heaven. Viel Spaß!

      • Spiller 9 May, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

        Fantastic! I’ll definitely check out your posts and thanks for the offer of help. I may just take you up on that 🙂

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