With the East Side Gallery, a segment of the Berlin Wall has been turned into the longest open air gallery in the world. It is located along the banks of the river Spree in Friedrichshain, it is 1.316 metre long and therefore also the longest segment of the Berlin Wall that is still standing. Right after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the East Side Gallery was painted by 118 artists from 21 different countries. Using various artistic means, the artists commented on the political events that took place in 1989 and 1990 in over 100 works of art found on the eastern side of the wall.
In the course of the years, many of the images became greatly weathered and, in 2009, forty of these works of art were restored. Today the East Side Gallery is an international memorial for freedom. The gallery is located on the so-called „hinterland mauer“, which closed the border to East Berlin.
The Gallery consists of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world, painted in 1990 on the east side of the Berlin Wall. The East Side Gallery was founded following the successful merger of the two German artists‘ associations VBK and BBK. It is possibly the largest and longest-lasting open air gallery in the world. Paintings from Jürgen Grosse alias INDIANO, Dimitri Vrubel, Siegfrid Santoni, Bodo Sperling, Kasra Alavi, Kani Alavi, Jim Avignon, Thierry Noir, Ingeborg Blumenthal, Ignasi Blanch i Gisbert, Kim Prisu, Hervé Morlay VR and others have followed.
The paintings at the East Side Gallery document a time of change and express the euphoria and great hopes for a better future for all people of the world.
Two-thirds of the paintings are badly damaged by erosion, graffiti, and vandalism. One-third has been restored by a non-profit organization which started its work in 2000. The objective of this organization is the eventual restoration and preservation of all the paintings.
The restoration process has been marked by major conflict. Eight of the artists of 1990 refused to paint their own images again after they were completely destroyed. In order to defend the copyright, they founded „Founder Initiative East Side“ with other artists whose images were simply copied without permission.
Bodo Sperling launched a test case in the Berlin State Court in May 2011, represented by the Munich art lawyer Hannes Hartung and with the support of the German VG Bild-Kunst. The Court will address the question of whether art should be listed as destroyed and then re-copied without the respective artists‘ permission. The outcome of the trial will be a landmark declaration for European art law.