What it′s like to paint on the Berlin Wall | Arts | DW | 12.08.2016
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Arts

What it's like to paint on the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall is not only a magnet for graffiti sprayers, but also for artists like Spanish painter Victor Landeta. He tells DW what makes the wall different from a canvas - and why it's hard to sell his work.

DW: Why do you paint on the Berlin Wall? What makes it so special?

Victor Landeta: As a child I was a news junkie. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, I was eight years old. That moment has influenced me a lot. The pictures that were painted on the wall inspired me. That was exactly what I was looking for. Since 2010, I've been living in Berlin. But I waited another two years before I painted on the first piece of the Berlin Wall. I wanted to do it with all my heart!

And now you've already painted a dozen images on segments of the Berlin Wall…

Yes, I started with the series on the Nobel Peace Prize winners. I started with Willy Brandt, then I continued with Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mother Teresa and Gandhi, who is the only one in the series who hasn't received a Nobel Peace Prize.

The entire project was based on the idea of peace. I wanted to make a statement with these wall pieces. The wall once divided Berlin and caused so much suffering. I wanted to turn it into something positive. That's why I decided to paint people on it who have dedicated themselves to peace.

You said that the wall caused a lot of suffering. It not only divided the city, but also led to the deaths of many people. Did that fact not make you hesitate to paint it?

Yes, I am aware of that fact. That's why I only painted one side of the wall and deliberately left the other side blank, just as it used to be.

Victor Landeta's series of the Nobel Peace Prize winners Copyright: V. Landeta

Victor Landeta's series of the Nobel Peace Prize winners

The wall is basically a stone canvas. Do you paint on it differently than on a regular canvas?

Yes and no. The surface of the wall is damaged; it's older and rougher than a new canvas. And of course, the wall is not just a simple canvas. You really have to know exactly what you're going to paint on the wall before you start. I have to be very sure of it. But basically I don't paint differently - it's almost the same.

How is the sale of your wall pictures going? Is there big interest?

Not really. It's very tough. I paint politicians. I have the impression that no city or public institution will spend money on pictures that are associated with political parties.

Could you imagine painting something completely different, like flowers or landscapes?

Basically, yes, but it's always about the objective. I once got a commission to paint football images on the wall, but I refused. For me, the wall is very important, so I couldn't paint something like that or flowers on it. For me it has to be something meaningful.

Landeta while working on the painting of Nelson Mandela on a segment of the Berlin Wall Copyright: V. Landeta

Landeta while working on the painting of Nelson Mandela on a segment of the Berlin Wall

What's your next big project?

That will be in New York. A wall segment is on its way there and I'll paint on it next year. I don't know yet exactly what I'll paint on it. I also have other projects in New York and California that are not related to the Berlin Wall.

The wall is now in short supply. Is it difficult to get new wall segments for your art projects?

Yes it is very difficult. At the moment I have no new segments to paint on.

The artist Victor Landeta was born in the Spanish Basque Country and now lives in Berlin. He has created 12 paintings on segments of the Berlin Wall so far. In addition to the series of the Nobel Peace Prize winners, he has also portrayed Albert Einstein, Malala Yousafzai and Mikhail Gorbachev, among others. Most of the wall paintings are located in Berlin.

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