Although the Berlin Wall was once a symbol of division and strife, it now serves as a testament to unity and artistic expression. When the wall fell in 1989, artists were encouraged to create beautiful murals on the wall’s remains. The East Side Gallery, in particular, has become a potent symbol of unity, with one of its most famous murals depicting Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honecker locked in a passionate kiss. Recent development projects, however, have threatened the longevity of this open-air art gallery. While the space has been under national monument protection since 1991, actually maintaining the art has proven difficult. Occasional restoration efforts have helped, but time and the elements have taken a toll, and in 2013, part of the wall was even taken down to make room for luxury condos.
Now, however, the Berlin Wall Foundation has gained control of the wall and the surrounding property. They intend to perform long overdue maintenance, offer guided tours of the wall, and create historical displays. By turning the wall into a proper open-air museum, the foundation hopes to solidify the gallery’s place in Berlin’s cultural history and protect it against development. Indeed, development will no longer be allowed on the riverbank behind the gallery.
The foundation will also begin an archaeological project to uncover the foundations of a guard tower that once overlooked the East Side Gallery, where 10 people were killed while trying to escape East Berlin. In addition to these restoration and archaeological projects, the city will invest $285,000 to help maintain the site — an encouraging show of support for a piece of history in dire need of preservation.