Berlin Wall Along Wilshire

The Berlin Wall Along Wilshire — Los Angeles Explorers Guild

Berlin Wall Along Wilshire

On Wilshire Boulevard, across the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, you can find 10 sections of the Berlin Wall, the longest portion of this Cold War relic outside of Germany.

The Wall Project

Back in October 2009, Culver City’s Wende Museum brought 10 Berlin Wall segments to Los Angeles. The museum did this in advance of its epic Wall Project, a series of events held across Los Angeles that celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This celebration culminated in the unveiling of the Wall Along Wilshire on November 8, 2009. These 10 segments, now part of the Wende Museum’s permanent collection, remain installed today, free for anyone to visit.

The Wall Along Wilshire

These segments of the Berlin Wall, also referred to as the Berlin Wall Segments Marker, stand together in front of 5900 Wilshire (once the Variety Building) on Wilshire Boulevard, right across the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

The Wall Along Wilshire, the longest remnant of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany. Photo from the author’s collection.

The intention of this installation is to pay homage to an extant section of the Berlin Wall known as the East Side Gallery. This is a place in Berlin where artists from around the world transformed the wall’s cold concrete into a colorful condemnation of barriers and divisions.

The East Side Gallery is still standing in Berlin along the Spree River, and it’s the longest remaining section of Berlin Wall anywhere (at 4,318 feet) — as well as the world’s longest open-air gallery. Although the Wall Along Wilshire is much shorter — measuring just under 40 feet long — it’s still the longest intact section of the former wall that stands outside of Germany.

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Following the artistic spirit of the East Side Gallery, the Wende Museum invited Thierry Noir, a French artist based in Berlin, to contribute an original painting to one section of the Wall Along Wilshire.

Detail from the Wall Along Wilshire featuring Thierry Noir’s work, the orange face, in the center. Photo from the author’s collection.

This decision is notable because Noir was the first artist who painted on the Berlin Wall, illegally, in 1984 as an act of political protest. For the next five years his artistic protest continued, and he eventually contributed artwork to many miles of the Berlin Wall.

Another Berlin artist, the popular and enigmatic street artist Bimer, also contributed artwork to a section of the Wall Along Wilshire. Bimer is well-known for Bimer’s Bears, a series of cartoon bears he’s added to the urban landscape throughout modern Berlin. He painted an angry green Bimer’s Bear on the seventh segment before it left Germany.

Detail from the Wall Along Wilshire detailing Bimer’s Bear in the center. Photo from the author’s collection.

The Los Angeles Connection

In addition to the Noir and Bimer contributions, three L.A. artists were invited to participate in the project by painting over a section or two of the wall. These included then-emerging artists Farrah Karapetian and Marie Astrid González as well as established muralist Kent Twitchell.

You’ve likely seen Twitchell’s work all over Los Angeles — one of his most-seen murals is L.A. Chamber Orchestra, which is highly visible from the Harbor Freeyway (the 110) in the middle of the downtown corridor. For the Wall Along Wilshire, he initially contributed the portraits of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, two presidents who have significant history with the Berlin Wall.

Detail from the Wall Along Wilshire with Kent Twitchell’s presidential portraits in the center. Photo from the author’s collection.

In 2014, Twitchell returned to the Wall Along Wilshire to honor Nelson Mandela Day when he added the figure of the former South African president to the ninth remnant.

Although there have been some artistic additions over the past 12 years (some colorful designs and typography, a black-and-white figure, a peace symbol), the last four sections of the wall still feature the original graffiti as seen in Berlin during the waning years of the Cold War.

But these ten sections only represent 91% of the Berlin Wall sections in Los Angeles. There’s one last section of the wall, painted by Thierry Noir, at the entrance to the Wende Museum at 10808 Culver Boulevard in Culver City.

Behind the Wall

The side to the Berlin Wall Along Wilshire that faces away from the street is often in the shadow of 5900 Wilshire. This feels thematically appropriate, as this was the side of the wall that faced East Berlin. While this side of wall was blank when it first arrived in Los Angeles in 2009, that is no longer the case.

The back side of the Berlin Wall Segments Marker on Wilshire. Photo from the author’s collection.

In November 2011, the Wende Museum invited three artists to contribute to its “Surveillance Project,” an artistic exploration of how surveillance started during the Cold War era and continues through today.

The artists who contributed to this side of the wall include, from left to right, German art duo Herakut, Los Angeles constructed script artist Retna, and British street muralist D*Face (who has painted a few other murals throughout Los Angeles).

D*Face’s contribution to Behind the Wall. Photo from the author’s collection.

The Wall Along Wilshire

a/k/a Berlin Wall Segments Marker

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Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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