East Side Gallery - Berlin

At the historic wall that marked the end of the short century a feeling of uneasiness sets in: “Is this it?” Left and right, street cons set up shell games to dupe tourists, young men dressed up as Russian soldiers pose for paid pictures, teenagers use spray cans to leave traces of their visit. Unflattering wire fencing is being installed to protect the wall that hundreds of artists with murals symbolizing human misery and hope transformed into the East Side Gallery. To beautify the monument's site further, the local administration added a landscaped park. With skinny trees, small patches of grass and trash lying around, the park is used as a lounge spot to recover from days of partying. Though iconic, the East Side Gallery is not a federal monument - city and local administrations manage it - which explains the neglect and development speculations that surround it. Indeed, regardless of trash, the former death strip is prime real estate. When David Hasselhoff (a German hero since his performance in front of the falling Berlin wall) heard that a luxury apartment building was going to interrupt the park and make the wall look like the outside part of a gated community, he got on a plane to protest alongside his treasured Berliners. But the man who chanted the praise to freedom couldn't do much – the Berlin Senate had already sold the land plot and granted building permits to a former Stasi spy made real estate mogul whose LinkedIn maxim states: “Liquidity comes before profitability and profitability before growth” - a stark contrast to Hasselhoff's lofty lyrics. The stark contrast is also material: the monument's authentic Berlin street art feel vs. the building's white Macbook-like design with apartments costing between € 12'000 and € 22'000 per square meter. Who knows how the parvenus in the ivory tower feel surrounded by tourists 24/7/365 and by occasional protests – besieged? or how they feel knowing that they gave big money to a spy that betrayed his closest friends by giving their house key to the government during the DDR times - contrite? or perhaps they are rueful and a sardonic humor pushes them to find it all whimsical, a haphazard yet normal progression of things that they happen to be part of and will be joined in the near future by guests staying at an upcoming 120m-wide luxury hotel just next door.AP

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