Thierry Noir is a French artist who is claimed to be the first street artist to paint the Berlin Wall. His brightly colored paintings, which often feature cartoon-like profiles, are now considered iconic and can still be seen on the East Side Gallery. He currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany.
Thierry Noir was born in 1958 in Lyon, France. He moved to Berlin in January 1982 with two small suitcases, attracted by the music of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, who lived in West Berlin at this time. He lived in a squat at Mariannenplatz, near the Berlin Wall.
In April 1984, Noir and Christophe-Emmanuel Bouchet started to paint the Berlin Wall, eventually painting 1 kilometres of it. He stated of painting the wall at this time: "I decided spontaneously to start to make something on the wall. I got thousands of questions - everyone wanted to know something about this - because it was new - there were no big paintings on the wall." Between 1984 and the fall of the Berlin Wall many other artists painted the wall, including Keith Haring, Kiddy Cidny, and Indiano. Noir can be briefly seen painting part of the Berlin Wall in Wim Wenders's 1987 film Wings of Desire.
In 1992 the Berlin Wall was declared a historic monument. In 2009, Noir was part of an initiative by the local government to restore 1300 meters of the wall to address issues caused over the years by vandalism, weather, and theft. As a part of this initiative Noir repainted several of his original works.
Later in 2013 Noir participated in Baroque the Streets, a collaborative exhibition organized by the Dulwich Picture Gallery and Street Art London. Noir painted a street art mural of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo's baroque masterpiece Joseph Receiving Pharaoh's Ring (1755) in Dulwich Park.
Traces of Noir's work is still visible at the East Side Gallery of the Wall, probably the biggest open air gallery in the world. There is also an example of his work on the portion of the wall in New York City in a courtyard on 53rd street between Madison and 5th Ave.
The paintings of Thierry Noir became a symbol of new-found freedom after the reunification of Germany and the end of the Cold War. The Irish rock band U2 featured Noir's artwork of on East German Trabant cars and used photos of these to decorate their 1991 album Achtung Baby. The album itself includes songs, such as "Zoo Station", which have themes inspired by the fall of the Wall and the changes taking place in Europe at the end of the Cold War.
In 2000 Noir was featured in the German documentary Nach Dem Fall ("After the Fall"), in which he discussed his art and the importance of the wall to Berlin only a decade after the fall.
In 2009, in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, ten original sections of the Berlin Wall, including artworks by Noir, were exhibited in Los Angeles as a part of the Wende Museum's The Wall Project. In addition, Noir and local artists, like Shepard Fairey and Kent Twitchell, were commissioned to create new pieces of artwork to display alongside the original pieces of the Berlin Wall.
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