Berlin Wall – Suwanee, GA

On November 9, of this year, it will be 30 years since the Berlin Wall came down.  The wall stood for political beliefs and ideologies, it divided an old city, tore apart families, but apart from all that the wall fascinates me as a piece of art.  On the West Berlin side of the wall, artists used the wall as a canvas, which was painted over and over by artists who defied DDR soldiers patrolling on the other side of the wall and made their own political statements using spray paint.  Some artists became famous for their Berlin wall art, among them French artist Thierry Mugler (who I will write about later), and sometimes internationally famous artists like Keith Haring, drew attention to the wall by using it as their canvas.

Graffiti painted over Keith Haring’s graffiti (Tate Modern)

But for the most part, it was the thousands of ordinary West Berlin citizens, most likely teenagers, that defiantly painted the wall over and over again, spray painting messages of defiance, freedom, and even messages of the everlasting promise of young love on it.  Much of this was lost, crushed by huge machines so the concrete could be used to rebuild East Berlin at a fast pace – the same concrete that the DDR government s got from the ruins of bombed out buildings was once again being used to rebuild East Berlin. 

Section of the Berlin Wall from the 1980s (The Guardian)

Many pieces did survive intact and now can be found in various parts of the world – New York, Los Angeles, Boston, London, Miami and many more small town have sections of the wall in their museums, public art displays, and private ownership. Orlando has one too near the Hard Rock Café on Universal City Walk.  Georgia has quite a few in the army base, perhaps the army bases in Georgia had personnel stationed in Germany and so were given sections of the wall by a grateful West Berlin government. 

Suwanee, which is part of metro Atlanta, has a beautiful downtown area with restaurants, ice cream parlors, boutique shops, and central park with a baseball field in the middle.  The edge of the park is lined with statues and other works of art, one of which is a section of the Berlin Wall. Suwanee acquired the wall as a donation from a grateful local businessman who was born in a communist country.

During the summer, I went to see this section of the wall.  The West Berlin side of the wall is painted in bright colors, and shows an East Berliner trying to jump over the wall to escape toward the West, which is depicted with a high rise building and an American flag.  It’s a beautiful piece of art that captures a moment in time; the dark blue sky in the background with the majestic stars and stripes, the booming, capitalist West with its luxurious high-rise building, the wall itself with graffiti, and the East Berliner trying to escape toward the West.  It’s fascinating that the artist painted the East Berlin side of the wall with graffiti – perhaps unaware that the wall on the East side was blank.  I think it’s a brilliant piece of art, which captures everything the wall stood for perfectly on a single canvas. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s