Exhibition Daniel Boulogne

Daniel Boulogne
" The Berlin Wall "

Caen Memorial - DHM

I - From Paris
II - Through East border
III - "Rabbit For Ever"
IV - Just in front the Wall


I - From Paris

It is the same with the Berlin Wall. There was freedom on the western side. Short of climbing over it, you could do what you liked with the Wall, and why would anyone want to climb over it anyway when already on the right side of it? On the side where you had paint, brushes, scaffolding, everything. Freedom and the wherewithal to enjoy it. And artists had no compunction in making use of it during the 10 795 days and nights of the Wall's existence.

Between August 1961 and its demolition after 9th November 1989, artists turned its western side into a pamphlet, a cartoon strip, a collective adventure, a zoo filled with monsters, a cry of revolt, a call to freedom with words thrown the way demonstrators throw cobblestones, an open-air gallery, with trompe-l'oeil holes. They transformed the concrete into a work of art.



On the other side, there was nothing. Nothing but bare concrete, guarded by the Vopos, the People's Police. The pounding of patrolling feet. Watchtowers. Coils of barbed wire. Searchlights piercing the darkness. And the occasional burst of machine-gun fire – at least seventy people were killed at the foot of the Wall.

Nothing but bare concrete – I hadn't thought of that. I realized my mistake listening to the radio on 16th November 1989 when I heard that artists in the east had decided to paint the Wall. This was a week or so after the Wall was first breached, and I immediately decided that I would send them some painting materials.

Joël, my "officially appointed assistant" on dangerous assignments – if anyone could get through, he could – helped me load two tons of paint: white, black, the three primary colours, red, blue and yellow. A few shades that are hard to get hold of, apple green, apricot, various ochres. We added bottles of overtint with which to obtain every colour in the prism, from ultraviolet to infrared.

We packed in various heights of scaffolding, paintbrushes of every size, empty Vérame-Tibesti cans, jerrycans of water, solvents, rags, plumblines, draw-strings, the lot. Being conscientious professionals, we also put in rolls of polythene to protect the ground from paint splashes, as if we were talking about an oak lozenge parquet floor. We put a tarpaulin over the load to reduce wind drag and we were ready to go! Joël drove, day and night. Two days later, he had arrived. Except that he was stuck in front of the Wall, with the lorry in the West. There was no way through.


When he called to tell me this, I decided I should go too; together we would surely find a way to deliver the paint, the scaffolding and the rest. I caught up with Joël at the Schweizerhof.

As a company boss with 1400 employees to look after, I should have been in the office. Definitely not delivering to Berlin. My diary was crammed full with appointments and if I left the office, I would have to cancel and maybe lose a contract in the process. But I had banged my head against the Wall twice already. Jean Vérame and I had planned to paint it blue. In Vérame blue and nothing else. For us, blue has the dazzling serenity of a cloudless sky. But also more than that. It is the colour of peace – don't we talk of the Blue Helmets? It is also the colour of the flag of a Europe finally reconciled after the pointless bloodletting of two world wars and where Franco-German friendship is the driving force.

Since 1961, the Wall was beginning to look more and more like a jumble of tags painted over each other. As a building industry professional, I am against graffiti, which is a pest, like having a mole in a vegetable garden. A mole can be a touching creature, until it gets in among your radishes and lettuces. Daubing scrawl all over a Haussmann building in newly restored ashlar is as criminal as doing it to the Venus of Milo: the paints soaks right into the stone and the damage is irreversible.

Naturally one is entitled to view the tag as being the sign of rebellion against the established order, and as such, the western side of the Wall is a sublime one indeed! However, Jean Vérame and I felt that the time for enraged revolt was over, and it was now time for a call for peace as symbolised by a Wall as blue as a Blue Helmet.

Nothing came of this project, nor did anything come of a project I had with Raymond Moretti, to build another "mur" (wall) in front of the "Mur" – a "mur-mur" in fact.

We wanted to stretch a canvas over some guide rails and invite artists from all over the world to come and work side by side on it for a day in front of TV crews from every continent. Then we intended dismantling the whole thing and auctioning off the paintings. A fine project, but it fell through as well.

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