Call it Berlin’s first Occupy movement. Kunsthaus [Art House] Tacheles [Yiddish for straight-talking] was once a Jewish-owned Berlin department store and later a Nazi Party headquarters, was taken over by artists in 1990 after the building was slated for demolition. Kunsthaus Tacheles, became a major tourist draw, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.
Here’s a video from vlogger Fliegenpilzhamburg showing the Kunsthaus as visitors found it in March, 2011:
But it all came to end today, as police swooped in to evict the artists, paving the way for developers of a half-billion-dollar apartment complex.
From the BBC:
HSH Nordbank, currently in charge of the Tacheles, requested the clearance as part of plans to sell the centre.
Situated in what used to be East Berlin, when the city was divided by the wall, the building stretches over 1250sq m (13,455sq ft) and houses a theatre, cinema, restaurant, as well as a maze of galleries and workshop areas.
Before police arrived, two black-clad artists played a funeral march but bailiffs were able to clear the building without resistance, the AFP news agency reported.
“This is the theft of a work of art, supported by the police,” Tacheles spokesman Martin Reiter told a small gathering of supporters and journalists outside the building.
More from Spiegel:
“Berlin has suffered a great loss today,” said one of the artists. She called on Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit and the city’s culture minister, André Schmitz, to resign. “They alone are responsible for this clearance.”
Tacheles is the last remaining part of a department store complex built at the beginning of the 20th century. It was heavily damaged by aerial bombs in World War II and the East Berlin authority had much of it torn down in the 1980s.
After the Berlin Wall fell, artists moved in. Plans to turn it into commercial and residential buildings in the 1990s where shelved for years after the real estate company that bought it ran into financial trouble.
HSH-Nordbank as the main creditor now plans to sell it. The city has said part of the complex will continue to be used for the arts and culture. But the trashy center, a colorful blot on the face of an increasingly commercially oriented and streamlined Berlin, is gone forever.
Here’s a 44 minute video of today’s events from the KiekeMaFilmBerlin vlog [it’s in German, but the images and the feelings tell the story for those who don’t Sprechen Sie]:
A parallel in Berkeley
Here in Berkeley, the battle over Kunsthaus Tacheles reminds us of the long, sad battle over the Drayage Building, a former warehouse converted into a remarkable assembly of artists in self-built live/work spaces.
Berkeley city officials have been slowly chopping away at the few remaining spaces in the city affordable to artists, and the Drayage Building, located alongside the heavily traveled Santa Fe Railroad tracks, was the last major live/work space available in a town once famously friendly to painters, sculptors, printers, and print-makers.
But a developer’s plans and numerous violations of building codes carried more weight with officialdom than did a thriving artist’s community, and after a lengthy struggle that lasted through most of 2005, the artists finally surrendered in December, leaving the community with one remaining refuge, albeit with living spaces, in the landmark Sawtooth Building.