Berlin Wall could be history

Berlin Wall could be history

Amid protests from artists and preservationists, property developers aim to dismantle the Wall and its iconic paintings
East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall
French artist Thierry Noir's paintings of "heads with big lips" are among those slated to be torn down. Noir joined protestors this week objecting to a development scheme near the Wall.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Publicly delivered from West Berlin to then Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in June 1987, that brazen call came to symbolize the high point of Ronald Reagan's presidency, and the beginning of the end of the barrier that separated East and West Berlin.

The Wall did eventually come down -- or at least most of it did.

Large sections, however, have not just remained standing, they've become a tourist attraction.

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The East Side Gallery, a 1.3-kilometer length of the Wall covered with colorful murals and graffiti recalling the politics, tension and human sacrifice of the Cold War era, reportedly attracts 800,000 visitors a year.

As with other extant pieces of the Wall, the gallery's artwork has been created by artists from around the world.

Finishing Reagan's work?

Many in rapidly gentrifying Berlin, however, see the remnants of the Wall as both a physical and spiritual impediment to modernization.

As reported this week by the Guardian, these include a development group called Living Bauhaus, which plans to construct a 63-meter-high (206 feet) office and residential tower near the East Side Gallery.

Sections of the Wall would be demolished to make room for the new construction, while the aesthetics of those parts left standing would be imperiled, according to protestors.

“All the paintings have become a symbol of freedom in Berlin and Europe,” said French artist Thierry Noir, according to the Guardian report. “This is a unique opportunity to preserve a large section of what was once a death strip. If you remove the sections, you're destroying the authenticity of this place.”

Noir's paintings cover sections of the Wall slated for removal.

Further demolition of the Wall nevertheless appears inevitable. Local politicians say the current developers have a legal right to tear down the Wall.

Is the Berlin Wall history, art or an obstacle to progress? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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