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July 26th, 2014

Secret Spot: Berlin Wall Remnants in Paley Park

Who would have thought that a piece of the Berlin Wall is tucked away in a courtyard of an office building in Midtown Manhattan? Head over to 53rd and Madison for a piece of history.

In the early 1980s, painter Thierry Noir lived in an apartment close to the Berlin Wall which spanned 45 kilometers long dividing East and West Berlin. He felt the need to do something against this wall that struck so much fear. So in 1984, Noir began to paint the Berlin Wall in a revolutionary act: to paint it, to transform it, to make it ridiculous, and to help destroy it.

With the help of Christophe Bouchet, Kiddy Citny and others, they became renegade graffiti artists sneaking into no-man’s land to transform this Cold War symbol into colourful cartoons. Within 6 years, they had painted nearly 5 kilometers of the wall.

When the Wall fell on November 9, 1989 his paintings became a symbol of freedom across Germany. Pieces of the wall Slowly began to be taken down, piece by piece.

In 1990, sections of the Berlin Wall with Noir’s work were sold at an auction house in Monaco for nearly $1.5 million euros. After years of going back and forth in court, Noir received some of the profits.

Five pieces were bought at this auction by real estate company Tishman Speyer and are currently displayed at 520 Madison Avenue. By coincidence, the sections are the exact ones that Noir is painting when he appears in Wim Wenders’ pre-Berlin Fall movie “Wings of Desire.”