Photo via Smithsonian.com
The Berlin Wall…in New York City? You heard that right. And there’s not just one piece, but five. In the early 1980s, artist Thierry Noir began painting the surfaces on the west side of the Berlin Wall, close to his apartment. In an effort to make the wall seem less menacing, other artists joined in, covering various sections of the wall with painted figures and graffiti. The 14-foot tall wall became a huge canvas, giving voice to artists from around the world, and a popular tourist destination.
The dismantling of the Wall was completed in 1991, with more than 40,000 wall sections recycled into building materials used for German reconstruction projects. However a few hundred sections were preserved, sold, auctioned off or given away. Five of these sections are here in New York City.
520 Madison Avenue
In 1990, Jerry Speyer of Tishman Speyer purchased a piece of the Berlin Wall from the East German government. It was originally installed next to the popular Paley Park, situated on 53rd Street near Madison Avenue. The five colorful panels that make up this part of the Berlin Wall were visible from the sidwalk until last year when they vanished. Not to worry. They are now right next door, in the lobby of 520 Madison Avenue, in an effort to preserve the historic slabs from weather and further decay. The lobby is open to the public seven days a week.