Berlin's first Street Art Museum opened on September 16th, 2017. In what was once a residential building in the neighborhood of Schöneberg, the Museum for Urban Contemporary Art is now the largest street art museum in the world. Find out all you need to know about how to visit Berlin's first street art museum.
About Street Art Museums
This museum has been a project long in the making (for over a decade) by a group of street art enthusiasts known as Urban Nation. Urban Nation is responsible for organizing urban art projects throughout Berlin and even worldwide, and has orchestrated works that transform ordinary overpasses, alleyways, and entire buildings into one-of-a-kind artworks. Despite their enthusiasm for the project, not everyone is sold on the idea. Some people ask, "Is it still street art if it’s not made on the streets?"
Good question. This is an issue that has plagued even the artists themselves. Street art is temporary, and that is one of the reasons it can be so pointed or outrageous because its time is fleeting. No one owns it, as it is an expression of the moment. Renowned Italian artist, BLU, painted over most of his work in Bologna in protest of an exhibition at Palazzo Pepoli entitled “Street Art: Banksy & Co.” which featured street art from around the world. (He also painted over one of his and his collaborators' most famous pieces in Berlin in reaction to the city's gentrification).
Nevertheless, street art museums are a global trend. It is profitable with Banksy's work selling for more than a million pounds and some of his original work being protected in its natural habitat in Bristol by the British government. The Street Museum of Art (SMoA) in New York City opened in 2012, and Amsterdam has a Street Art Museum as does St. Petersburg. And many more cities are opening their own.
What does set Berlin's apart is that the museum seeks to be the first non-commercial and independent home for urban contemporary art. The museum is the result of a 900,000-euro grant from the non-profit Berlin Lotto Foundation, and admission is free. Street art has become credible enough to meet their requirements of promoting social, cultural, environmental, and charitable goals.
What to Expect from Berlin's Street Art Museum
The building that houses the exhibits has been wrapped with 8,000 square feet of transportable panels, so that the work put up on the exterior can be archived and kept forever. Inside, the art is also protected. This is a rarity for street art which usually has a fleeting moment with only a few pieces making into popular culture. This is now the largest street art museum in the world.
The museum showcases just one big show a year rather than various rotating exhibits. For the first show, eight curators from around the world were carefully selected with more than 100 artists. Included were well known figures like Shepard Fairey, Ron English, and Blek le Rat. To avoid some of the issues that have upset the street art community, all the works in the opening show were created for this event.
The interior has been designed by GRAFT Architects. The street art museum has a sculpture garden, a library of street art around the world with pictures from photojournalist Martha Cooper, and a futuristic floating walkway that allows visitors to see every inch of the nearly 50-foot-tall exhibits that span two stories. Workshops are held here, and there is also an auditorium for people to discuss the future of street art, community projects, and open the dialogue about what street art is. The ultimate objective of the project is to create a hub for all things street art.
And the museum is far from abandoning the idea of art in the streets. They offer a Community Wall project that allows street artists to paint 12 buildings near the museum. This is part of the effort to integrate urban art into the community. For example, one such piece from Shepard Fairey depicts a man reading the newspaper with the words "No Future" above and "sexism," "racism," and "xenophobia" below.
How to Visit
The museum is well-equipped for everyone, and standard museum etiquette is required (i.e. no food or drink and dogs should be left outside.) Pictures or video for personal use are allowed.
Be forewarned that the museum may only whet your appetite. Discover more about the world's biggest living street art gallery by traveling the city in search of the best street art in Berlin (such as the must-see Berlin attraction of the East Side Gallery or ESG).
The city's past, present and future is tied to riots, demonstrations, and resistance, and though many people overlook or dismiss street art as simple graffiti, learning its story can reveal much more about the heart and soul of the city and its people.
And if you can't make it to the museum, at least you can follow along with what's happening on social media