Thierry Noir on street art that brings hope

Three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Thierry Noir discusses how the colourful characters he defaced the wall with became a symbol of freedom for those it oppressed, and the lessons we can learn from it today

It’s hard not to smile when you come across Thierry Noir’s work. The street artist’s infectiously charming, cartoon-like faces have been brightening up dreary buildings and public spaces everywhere from Shoreditch to Sydney over the last couple of decades. Those familiar with Noir’s back story, however, will know that his colourful creations also come with a more serious message. His most famous work remains the mural he painted on Berlin’s art-adorned East Side Gallery – one of the final remnants of what was formerly the Berlin Wall.

Built in 1961 by the Communist government of the GDR, the wall was envisaged as a physical border between East and West Germany, but also became one of the most enduring symbols of the Cold War that dominated the second half of the 20th Century. The fall of the wall in 1989 became the precursor to the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990, and in turn the thawing of Cold War tensions across Europe.