Not long ago, graffiti was little more than an illegal nuisance in most cities. Fast-forward a few short years and, thanks to Banksy and others, the underground artform has quickly become mainstream. Now, Berlin — a city world-renowned for recognizing the value of its subcultures and their many contributions to art, culture, and community — has just opened the world’s largest street art museum.
The Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art (their marketing department clearly has some work to do) is situated in a beautiful, five-story building on the capital city’s Bülowstraße. The surrounding section of the west side Schöneberg neighborhood has, in recent years, become a vital link to the burgeoning street art community. Several buildings in the area already feature some of Berlin’s most eye-popping, building-size works.
The museum itself boasts a facade that combines more than 8,000 square feet of painted murals. All are drafted on removable panels which can be rotated and archived. Works from more than 30 artists also envelop the tracks of the nearby train station.
Inside the museum, a sleek, industrial design (thanks in part to the contemporary architecture firm Graft) serves as the building’s structure and the necessary canvas for its large-scale exhibits. Ten curators worked with more than 150 artists on the exclusive inaugural exhibition. A wide range of genre — including sculptures, paste-ups, acrylic, and legit graffiti — are on display from world-renowned local and international names like Olek, Fintan Magee, Shepard Fairey, and Lora Zombie.
The interior anchors a larger multi-use space intended to foster creativity and creation among the growing population of local urban artists. Numerous research and exchange programs, creative workshops, and live and open-air performances are already on the calendar.
The official opening took place September 16 on Bülowstraße, between Frobenstraße and Nollendorplatz. The event included skateboarding and breakdancing performances, yoga sessions, and the live creation of numerous exhibits by local artists. Visitors were encouraged to contribute by leaving their mark on a community art wall.
The museum is slated to be open indefinitely, and the best part is that it’s 100 percent free.