Berlin Wall Artist Condemns Plans for Luxury Flats

Created: 2013-06-07 13:14 EST

Category: World > Europe
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Art buffs seeking to take home a literal piece of history could get their hands on whole slabs of the Berlin wall at a Paris auction on Thursday.

The collection features 48 concrete sections of the divisive monument transformed into works commissioned by art collector Sylvestre Verger.

 [Sylvestre Verger, Art Collector]:
"The Berlin wall is in fact a number of walls -- it's the wall we see on television from the West side, but it's also all the walls from No Man's Land and which are from the East side. The East side wall was painted white because it was the wall against imperialism. So we gave the artists concrete squares of wall measuring one metre by 1.2 metres, sections of the Berlin wall, concrete canvases, so they could express themselves on the theme of freedom." 
 
Artists from all over the world created a range of paintings and sculptures around the theme, ranging from sombre memorials to colourful and hopeful visions for the future.
 
Despite Verger's passion for the collection, he said economic reasons were forcing him to sell them due to the cost of upkeep.
 
One of French artist Thierry Noir's pieces is included in the collection and said he had no problem with selling art painted on pieces of the wall -- but that he strongly objected to plans in Berlin to build a complex of luxury flats by a piece of land currently occupied by the city's open air East Side Gallery.
 
[Thierry Noir, Artist]:
"The problem at the East Side gallery is not the decorations on the wall, it's the space between the walls, the 65 metre stretch, the area between the walls called No Man's Land where 10 people died. And I find it insufferable that you can build an enormous building there. Normally you have to have respect for places where people died."
 
Protesters tried to stop demolition of the Gallery -- one of the last remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall -- in March, decades after jubilant Berliners tore down sections of the hated symbol of the Cold War.
 
The East Side Gallery, on the banks of the River Spree, was declared a historic monument in 1992 and has since become one of Berlin's main tourist attractions.
 
Berlin-based investment group Living Bauhaus has planning permission to build a 14-storey luxury apartment block featuring floor-to-ceiling glass fronts behind the open air gallery.
 
Communist authorities in the former East Germany built the wall in 1961. The concrete structure divided Berlin for 28 years and an estimated 1,000 East Germans were killed trying to escape to the west after its construction.