We were walking in the Mitte area of Berlin when, completely by accident, we bumped into one of the places that I loved a lot during my two previous visits to the city years ago. I’m talking about the amazing art and culture space Tacheles that officially closed last year.
I’m not sure why I missed the sad news, most probably I was too busy concentrating on our around the world trip that had already started at that point, so when I heard about it for the first time only few weeks ago when we were in Berlin, I couldn’t believe my ears.
I was already aware that Tacheles was occupied by squatters and I also know that in a case like this the owner might at some point claim back his rights to the property, but we are talking about an icon of the post-unification of Berlin, a place of free art, culture, events and activities, a place that during the years became a very famous landmark for locals and also tourists that had it noted down in their bucket list for Berlin. Needless to say that the news left me a bitter and sad feeling.
I was desolated looking at the now chained and barricaded entrance knowing that during our last visit (more than 3 years ago) Dale even bought a handmade poster from a local artist that stayed pinned onto our living room wall until we left the UK.
What used to be a very lively hub full of people, artists and not, was completely empty to my eyes, abandoned, left to itself and with nothing going on at all.
Seeing what used to be the Cafe’ Zapata (where we once stopped to have a drink) shutdown too, the only thing I could think about was that it’s such a shame seeing an art community like the one at Tacheles disappear.
Whilst the building was occupied by squatters it had studios, workshops, a cafe’, a cinema, a nightclub and an open garden full of exhibitions and artists working. The ones that I remember the most for their uniqueness were the metal sculptures exhibited, they were so well done and incredibly detailed, such amazing works. The second floor was partly used as accommodation for some of the squatters and some rooms as studios where they worked during the day.
The End Of an Era
I read a little bit about the story behind the closure of the Tacheles and the artists tried to fight until the last day to protect a space they felt was very much theirs, a space where they could freely do what they liked best, make art and show it to who ever was interested in it.
It’s a very messy story, there are some controversial points and nobody really tells the full version, one thing though is for sure, the closure of Tacheles is another example of a battle between free art against capitalism.
I understand perfectly that whoever is trying to sell the historical building and the surrounding land has the right to do so, I know that the people that were living and using the former department store – and concentration camp later on – were squatters that for 10 years had an agreement with the owner to be there and make use of the building. I know that this agreement run out and they lost their right to be there, but I still feel sorry to see a place like that disappear only to be replaced maybe by another huge shopping center, or apartment blocks or shops. How many of these do we still need? Isn’t it sad?
I know the common interest is to make the city look better and improve it in many ways, I know there are some financial interests and needs behind this whole story, I just would have liked to see all this interest focused towards what Tacheles had become after the fall of the wall, towards the art community that lived there to make it grow, improve and develop.
I guess is hard to say no to a high profit, when there are many debts to pay and when it’s clearly not possible to make the same amount of money by keeping and investing in what Tacheles had become. I’d like to think that if I was a millionaire I’d buy the property not to build more shops but to create an art and community center, something where people could feel free to CREATE!
Anyway it’s not all over yet, Tacheles is closed that’s for sure and yet again art has paid the price, but who knows, there might be one investor out there that might think in the same way I do and create something amazing that might surprise everybody.