Berlin Artists Transform Balconies into Open-Air Art Galleries

Berlin Artists Transform Balconies into Open-Air Art Galleries
These balconies were transformed under the Die Balkone project, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

An initiative by Berlin University of the Arts gave artists a canvas to express themselves from home

Siddharth Ganguly
April 28 , 2020
05 Min Read

Since the coronavirus lockdown came into effect across the globe, the balcony has become a site for people’s artistic endeavours to be displayed to the outside world. In Italy, musicians serenaded their neighbours from their balconies. In India, pots and pans were beaten to show solidarity, and thank health workers. Now Berlin has joined in by transforming its balconies into sites for open art exhibits.

In the chic Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood, visiting professor of Berlin University of the Arts Övül Ö. Durmusoglu and Joanna Warsza initiated the projectwhich they dubbed, ‘Die Balkone: Life, art, pandemic, and proximity’earlier in April. The project saw the balconies of 50 homes in the neighbourhood transformed into art installations for viewers to admire, within the current lockdown measures, of course.

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A post shared by CuratorLab (@curatorlab_stockholm) on Apr 16, 2020 at 3:35am PDT

“Balconies serve as public apertures to the private” is what the organisers of Die Balkone say. At a time when Berlin’s artists are locked up in close proximity, yet forced to remain distant, the balcony provided a means of artistic expression for the city’s cultural creators. The rules for the lockdown in Berlin permit a limited degree of movement, which is sufficient to admire the exhibition, which people could go through following a map Durmusoglu and Warsza created and the letter ‘B’ along with it that signalled to people when to look up.

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A post shared by Övül Ö. Durmusoglu (@ovulundesi) on Apr 15, 2020 at 4:02pm PDT

Prenzlauer Berg has long provided fertile ground for the blossoming of art and culture. During World War II, it provided refuge for the counterculture of Bohemians and artists who strayed away from the repressive Nazi regime. The neighbourhood was also the centre of the peaceful revolution in 1989 that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today, heavily gentrified as it is, the neighbourhood stands beautifully restored with picture-perfect streets, chic and modern eateries, and many young families starting their lives. 

The artists that participated in Die Balkone utilised their limited space to the maximum, creating visual treats as well as pithy satires. One piece featured rolls of toilet paper streaming down from the balcony, a jibe at the early hoarding of toilet paper when news of the pandemic first began to break.

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A post shared by Övül Ö. Durmusoglu (@ovulundesi) on Apr 21, 2020 at 5:07am PDT

“When some of us are cut off from our plans and our loved ones, we reach out to the balconies of the world, against isolation and individualisation, not leaving everything in the hands of the virus and the fear it generates.” This is the message the organisers of the project wanted to share, affirming creativity and the human spirit when faced with a catastrophe as large-scale as the coronavirus pandemic. The work of artists and the various initiatives taken to come together at such a time has been strong, and bolstered so by Die Balkone.

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