Historical Witness - Thierry Noir

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French-born Thierry Noir chose to give his 2006 interview in English. The Berlin Wall experience became the center of his career and livelihood for the young painter from Lyon, who at age 22 had come to Berlin and soon fallen in with other ‘starving artists’ in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Sharing an impatience with the long expanse of “white” along the Wall, they saw it as an invitation to create colorful, garish, humorous and inventive street art, often just ahead of the East German guards glaring over the top of the Wall. Much of his work survives in photographs and in actual “best of” segments of the Wall; and our interview was conducted in Noir’s present-day Berlin studio, where examples of his trademark style can be seen in the background.

Since the Wall was on East German territory, Noir painted quickly and nervously watched for border guards. He kept his technique simple, as he explains, “Two ideas, three colors, you stir the whole thing up, and the picture is done.” For Noir, and many of his fellow artists in 1980s, the Wall was a gigantic blank canvas in the heart of the city upon which both political and apolitical images and messages could be expressed. Between 1984 and the fall of the Wall, several other western artists such as Indiano, Keith Haring and Kiddy Citny, for example, painted miles of artwork, sometimes attracting international attention for their bold statements. After November 1989, most of the Wall was demolished, or chipped away by “wall peckers.”

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