Over the last two decades, the importance and recognition of the Urban Art movement has become increasingly visible worldwide. The term urban art was used sporadically in the 1990s in the field of Graffiti and today attempts to unite various art forms in public space, whether sculptural, conceptual interventions in urban space, wall paintings (muralism), Street Art or Graffiti Writing. The extent to which this is the largest art movement of the 21st century continues to be discussed. One thing is certain: Urban Art intervenes in the urban space of a city, participates in urban design, is a means of communication between citizens and visitors of the city and interacts with their fast-moving life and change. It is a form of communication and mediation of artistic positions for everyone. It surprises, stimulates, embellishes, disturbs or upsets, in any case it is alive and leaves no one indifferent. The common global visual language that many artists share is cross-national, cross-cultural and cross-generational. Thus, beyond the visual arts, urban art can be an important medium for education, upbringing and mediation.
In many countries, major institutions now support urban art projects, important museums and galleries show exhibitions and present urban art artists, publications appear, cities invite to festivals, biennials and trade fairs take place.
Berlin: Central Place of Urban Art
Berlin plays an important role in this art movement. It has long been considered a Mecca on the international scene, where Graffiti became part of the cityscape from the 1970s and many gable and façade paintings were created. In divided Berlin, the Wall became the largest graffito in the world. It was sprayed and painted, and Graffiti Writing spread rapidly in West Berlin in the 1980s due to the hip hop movement from the USA. In the course of reunification, East Berlin also spread and there was a real Graffiti boom. From the mid-1990s onwards, increasingly visual artists conquered the urban space with new surprises and from around 2000 onwards, Street Artists left their mark in urban space with new visual languages and techniques.
Berlin has for many years stood for a subversive energetic art scene, and Berlin’s reputation brings many artists and tourists to the capital. A whole series of murals has attracted great international attention and the pictures have become true tourist magnets and landmarks of the city. The state of Berlin has also recognized this and Urban Art has been used for international city marketing for several years.
The URBAN ART WEEK would now like to support the places and initiatives that have been involved with Urban Art for years and that have promoted the movement, as well as younger initiatives.
The local actors
The important actors of the Urban Art scene in Berlin are long-standing active representatives of the older and younger generation. Spread all over the city, they have been organizing individual events for many years. The “Backjumps” exhibition series from 2003 in Kunstraum Bethanien (with the first officially painted firewalls), the Neurotitan at Haus Schwarzenberg, the former Stattbad Wedding with studios and exhibitions, the Stroke Art Fair, the Urban Affairs Festival, the Urban Spree on the RAW site or the ZK/U – Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik all played their part in promoting this art movement in Berlin. Initiatives such as the Hip Hop Base (From Here To Fame), the Berlin Massive Association or the Graffiti Lobby Berlin (which organized the first Graffiti congress and presentation of Graffiti in the House of Representatives), participated in international artist exchange and recognition of Graffiti culture at an early stage with workshops, festivals and Hip Hop jams. StreetUniverCity has long expanded its youth work with Graffiti Writing, including the Graffitiarchiv. Specialized galleries such as the Circle Culture Gallery, ATM Gallery, JR Gallery, the Schau Fenster, BC Gallery or Open Walls provide the city with an international exhibition program. Organizations and artist agencies such as Street Art Berlin, Circus of Styles, 0815 Design and XI Design paint Murals throughout the city and implement art projects.
All these actors work locally, nationally and internationally, and also with the aim of supporting Berlin artists. The work of the scene is accompanied by numerous publications and blogs on the topic. In Berlin-Schöneberg, the first museum for Urban Contemporary Art opened in 2017, which wants to prove its claim as a representative of the art form. The Street Art Project of Berlin Art Bang e.V. in the same year showed with the project “TheHaus” what incredible artistic energy and great potential there is in the Berlin urban art scene and how interested people are when they are invited to experience it. The “Berlin Mural Fest” left more than 20 new firewall designs in 2018 and celebrated with block parties.
Further information on the urban art scene in Berlin can be found on the website of the “Kreis der urbanen Szene” at: www.urbanvisit.org
Why an Urban Art Week in Berlin?
To this day, Berlin still does not have a regular comprehensive festival for the mediation of the various art forms of Urban Art. In other cities in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Russia, India, Morocco, Lebanon, and Germany (Cologne), the art program includes annually recurring formats for communicating Urban Art.
But Berlin is extremely important artistically here, because many artists developed new styles and techniques and the urban space always offered many possibilities and freedoms for artistic expression.
It is now time to bundle the participants and networks gathered under this format and to show the Berliners and our guests that the actors in Berlin appreciate their urban arts and artists and will jointly try to convey the diversity of the art movement, knowledge and critical scrutiny by means of various program points.
What does the new format offer?
The URBAN ART WEEK is the first comprehensive format of Berlin’s Urban Art scene, developed by the Urban Art working group created in 2017, which is made up of twelve participant organizations of the scene and has managed to form the Urban Art Round Table together with the Berlin Senate. The URBAN ART WEEK will unite all important comrades-in-arms of the scene in Berlin with a joint appearance with various program items over a period of eight days. The different art forms of Urban Art should be presented here, whereby the artistic quality and its diversity are in the foreground.
The goal is to sensitize a broad public for these art forms, to inform and to convey contents. The association of the participants, who have been interwoven with this worldwide art movement for some time now, will contribute to reaching a larger audience as well as to new exchanges and future collaborations. The long-term goal of the Urban Art Working Group and thus of URBAN ART WEEK is the sustainable networking, promotion and communication of this art movement. This is done on the one hand by supporting the artistic work of artists and on the other hand by communicating Urban Art through a broad-based public relations work.
The URBAN ART WEEK will take place from 5.09. to 12.09.2018 and will offer a varied free program for a wide audience throughout Berlin every day. A program flyer with a city map and a website (www.urbanartweek.de) in German and English accompany the format.