Thursday, 20 March 2014

Exhibition: legendary 1980s Berlin Wall artist, Thierry Noir

The Berlin Wall fell a quarter of a century ago this year, after standing for 28 years. 

By coincidence, this year I've also recently watched two excellent German films set in the Wall era, Lives of Others and Barbara, which was on TV the other week. Loved both, Lives of Others in particular, if you haven't ever seen it, is one of those films that stays with you for a long time.

And they've made me extra keen to go and see an upcoming London exhibition of the work of Thierry Noir, a French artist whose important 1980s graffiti-style paintings along the Berlin Wall have featured in the 1987 Wim Wenders' film, Wings of Desire, and on the cover of U2's album, Acthung Baby.

Above: the view from the bathroom window of Noir's squat 

Above: GDR soldiers remove an iron door from the Berlin Wall and take it back to East Berlin after Noir had stuck it to the Wall

Above: Noir at work in the 1980s

Noir was one of the artistic free-thinkers who moved to West Berlin in the 1980s, alongside David Bowie and Iggy Pop. He lived in a squat just a few metres away from the wall, and his large-scale, brightly colourful work was partly a reaction against the oppressive nature of having this structure looming behind his home.


He was the first artist, in 1984, to paint illegally on the wall, and he did so for five years until his work – created using scavenged paint – covered several miles of it.

When the Wall fell, pieces of it – featuring Noir's artwork – were auctioned off by Sotheby's for millions... by the East German government. At the time, Noir didn't see a cent.

Above: Noir paints the back of the Berlin Wall as it starts to come down

The exhibition, a retrospective, is Noir's first solo show and will feature old and new work including original painting on a resurrected Berlin Wall alongside, photographs, interviews and films. The artist's aim was to "demystify" the Wall: "I did nothing but react to its sadness," Noir says.

Check out this incredible video Noir made in 1985 to give you a better flavour of the work in situ.


Thierry Noir. Berlin Wall Travelling July 1985 from Thierry Noir on Vimeo.

Thierry Noir: A Retrospective opens on 3 April and runs until 9 May at the Howard Griffin Gallery189 Shoreditch High Street, E1. 

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