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GRAFFITI IN BERLIN AND LONDON

Article: From the wall to the living room

By voyage reporter Danielle Haywood

Graffiti in the capital

Graffiti is not just the pathetic squiggles and insults you see scrawled on walls. It cannot simply be explained away as the rebellion of bored and antisocial youth. Graffiti is art. In fact, graffiti is now art with a price tag (and not a cheap one either!) But how has this somewhat ironic transformation come about? Also, what are the differences between German and British graffiti culture?

Expensive graffiti in the UK

The modern British graffiti scene can be summed up in one word: Banksy. The man who has single-handedly taken graffiti to a new and commercial level, unintended. His work delivers a strong message. Often funny, other times a poignant criticism of society – all well thought out and executed. Whether you like it or not, his work provokes a response. Because of him, graffiti is now 'cool'. But not just to the younger generation - also to those much older and with money to spend. Pieces of Banksy's work are now taken down and sold. Made private. They remain no longer something that is for the public; instead, they become a centre piece for someone's living room wall.

Historical value of graffiti in Germany

Aleks van Sputto, a German graffiti artist, finds these recent developments quite 'awkward'. He says: "Street Art is not Street Art when you take it off the streets. Graffiti and Street Art always communicate with the surrounding area they’re created in."

The German graffiti scene is one, I feel, steeped in a bit more history. Also certainly a lot less commercial! The Berlin Wall on the Western side was a gallery of graffiti full of colours, its bleak, cold stone transformed in to a beautiful, expressionist mural. A strong contrast to the grey blocks on the Eastern side. What’s more, it was fiercely symbolic when the wall came down and the Easterners entered the colourful world of the West. And of course, Berlin itself is a graffiti Mecca – suggesting a rather different and more laid-back attitude to graffiti in Germany.

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