United Buddy Bears

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One World Buddy Bear
Eva and Klaus Herlitz, Exhibition in Saint Petersburg, 2012

Buddy Bears are painted, life-size fiberglass bear sculptures developed by German businesspeople Klaus and Eva Herlitz, in cooperation with sculptor Roman Strobl. They have become a landmark of Berlin and are considered unofficial ambassadors of Germany. The outstretched arms of the standing Buddy Bear symbolise friendliness and optimism.[1] The first bears were displayed at an artistic event in Berlin in 2001.[2]

Buddy Bear Berlin Show[edit]

Two Buddy Bears at Kurfürstendamm 21, Berlin
United Buddy Bears — Exhibition Paris 2012
United Buddy Bears, Exhibition
Rio de Janeiro
United Buddy Bears, Exhibition Cairo 2007

The first activities were presented as the Buddy Bear Berlin Show. In 2001, artists painted approximately 350 bears to appear as decorative elements in the streets of Berlin.[3] Four different bear designs (one standing on all four paws, one standing on two legs, one standing on its head, and one in a sitting position) were placed in the historic center of Berlin.[4] Afterwards, many of the bears were sold at auctions in aid of local child relief nonprofits. Nowadays, these Berlin Buddy Bears are exclusively presented on private premises, in front of hotels and embassies, as well as in the foyers of various office buildings. There have been exhibitions of the original Buddy Bears — designed by local artists — in the cities of Shanghai (2004), Buenos Aires (2005), and St. Gallen / Switzerland (2006).

United Buddy Bears[edit]

United Buddy Bears, Exhibition, Berlin 2006
United Buddy Bears, Exhibition Jerusalem 2007
United Buddy Bears, Exhibition Vienna 2006
United Buddy Bears, Exhibition Buenos Aires 2009
United Buddy Bears, Exhibition Helsinki 2010, Senate Square
Guatemala City 2019
Plaza de la Constitución
Tierpark Berlin 2020
Eva and Klaus Herlitz

United Buddy Bears is an international art exhibition with more than 140 2-meter (6 ft 7 in)-tall fiberglass bears. Under the motto: "We have to get to know each other better, it makes us understand one another better, trust each other more, and live together more peacefully", more than 140 countries acknowledged by the United Nations are represented, promoting "tolerance, international understanding and the great concept of different nations and cultures living in peace and harmony". The bears stand "hand in hand" in a "peaceful circle" (The Art of Tolerance[5]). The bears were on display between June and November 2002, in a circle around the Brandenburg Gate. Around 1.5 million people visited this first exhibition. On 6 November 2002, the bears were moved to new locations, including their respective countries' embassies in Berlin, or back to the country that they were based on. Some of the bears were auctioned off to raise money for UNICEF.

After the success of the first exhibition, a new circle was created in 2003. The idea was to send the circle on a global tour.[6] The circle changes when it reaches a new city, as the bears are always set up in alphabetic order, following the local language of the host country.[citation needed] Entry to the exhibitions is always free. In every metropolis, the United Buddy Bears exhibitions are supported by the government, the foreign ministries, the mayors, local nonprofits, and UNICEF.[citation needed] The bears have been displayed at the following locations since the beginning of the tour:

Year Country / City
Site of exhibition
Patron of the exhibition / Opening by
June – November
Berlin, next to the Brandenburg GatePariser Platz
Joschka Fischer, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs
Klaus Wowereit, Berlin's Governing Mayor
July – November
Berlin, next to the Brandenburg Gate – Pariser Platz
Sir Peter Ustinov, Actor and UNICEF World Ambassador
Dan Coats, U.S. Ambassador to Germany
January – February
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Horst Wendling, Mayor of Kitzbühel
May – June
 Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong, Victoria Park
Jackie Chan, Actor and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
Patrick Ho, Hong Kong's Secretary for Home Affairs
2004 / 2005
December – January
Istanbul, Tepebaşı Pera Square, Beyoğlu
Ahmet Misbah Demircan, Mayor of Beyoğlu
Rainer Möckelmann, German General Consul in Istanbul
April – May
Tokyo,[7] Roppongi Hills
Junichiro Koizumi, Prime Minister of Japan
Horst Köhler, President of the Federal Republic of Germany
October – November
 South Korea
Seoul, Olympic Park
Messages of greeting from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Korea, Ban Ki-moon
March – April
Sydney, Sydney Opera HouseCircular Quay
John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia
Ken Done, Artist and UNICEF Ambassador
June – July
Berlin,[8] Bebelplatz
Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development
Karin Schubert, Mayor of Berlin
Mia Farrow, American actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
September – October
Vienna, Karlsplatz
Grete Laska, Deputy Mayor of Vienna
Karin Schubert, Mayor of Berlin
Christiane Hörbiger, Film actress and UNICEF Ambassador
April – May
Cairo,[9] Gezira Promenade Zamalek
Suzanne Mubarak, First Lady of Egypt
Hans-Dietrich Genscher, former German Foreign Minister
Abdel Azim Wazir, Governor of Cairo
August – September
Jerusalem, Safra Square
Tzipi Livni, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Israel
Yigal Amedi, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem
Iris Berben, German actress and winners of the Women's World Award 2004
May – June
Warsaw, Castle Square
Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Mayor of the City of Warsaw
Klaus Wowereit, Governing Mayor of Berlin
Anne Hidalgo, First Deputy Mayor of Paris
July -August
Stuttgart, Schlossplatz
Wolfgang Schuster, Lord Mayor of Stuttgart
 North Korea
Pyongyang,[10] Moran Hill Youth Park, close to the Kim-Il-Sung statue
Mun Jae Chol, Foreign Affairs of North-Korea
Thomas Schäfer, German Ambassador in North Korea
March – April
Buenos Aires,[11] Plaza San Martin
Mauricio Macri, Mayor of Buenos Aires
Hernán Lombardi, Minister for Cultural Affairs
May – June
Montevideo,[12] Plaza Independencia
Tabaré Vázquez, President of Uruguay
Ricardo Ehrlich, Mayor of Montevideo
Bernhard Graf von Waldersee, German Ambassador in Uruguay
2009 / 2010
November – April
Berlin,[13] Hauptbahnhof,[14] Indoor
Ursula von der Leyen, Federal Ministry of Family Affairs
Dennenesch Zoudé, German actress and United Buddy Bears Special Ambassador
May – July
Astana, next to the Bayterek Tower
Imangali Tasmagambetov, Akim of Astana
Rainer Schlageter, German Ambassador in Kazakhstan
September – October
Helsinki,[15] Senate Square
Jussi Pajunen, Mayor of Helsinki
Peter Scholz, German Ambassador in Finland
April – May
Sofia,[16] Square St Nedelya
Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Sofia
Klaus Wowereit, Berlin's Governing Mayor
Matthias Martin Höpfner, German Ambassador in Bulgaria
June – October
Berlin,[17] Kurfürstendamm
Klaus Wowereit, Berlin's Governing Mayor
Monika Thiemen, Mayor of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf
2011 / 2012
December – February
Kuala Lumpur,[18][19] next to Pavilion Kuala Lumpur[20]
Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, Sultan of Selangor
Ahmad Fuad Ismail, Mayor of Kuala Lumpur
March – May
New Delhi,[21][22] Connaught Place
Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi
Klaus Wowereit, Berlin's Governing Mayor
June – August
Saint Petersburg,[23][24] Alexander Garden, next to the Palace Square
Vladimir Putin, President of Russia
Joachim Gauck, President of Germany[25]
Paris[26][27][28] / Eiffel TowerChamp de Mars
Guido Westerwelle, German Minister of Foreign Affairs
Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of Paris
Pierre Schapira, Member of the European Parliament
May – July
Rio de Janeiro,[29] Copacabana
Eduardo Paes, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro
Jürgen Trittin, German Federal Ministry for the Environment from 1998 to 2005
Harald Klein, German General Consul in Rio de Janeiro
January – March
Havana,[30][31][32] Plaza San Francisco de Asis[33]
Eusebio Leal, Ambassador of Good Will of the United Nations
Peter Scholz, German Ambassador in Cuba
Eva and Klaus Herlitz, the initiators of the United Buddy Bears activities
April – June
Santiago de Chile, Vitacura, Parque Bicentenario
Heraldo Muñoz Valenzuela, Foreign Affairs Minister of Chile
Hans Henning Blomeyer-Bartenstein, German Ambassador in Chile
August – October
George Town, Esplanade[34][35]
Lim Guan Eng, Chief Minister of Penang
2017 / 2018
December – January
Berlin, Walter-Benjamin-Platz[36]
Marianne von Weizsäcker, Patron of the exhibition
Sawsan Chebli, Berlin (Senat)
July – August
Riga, Dome Square[37]
Dace Melbārde, Latvian Culture Minister
Nils Ušakovs, Riga City Mayor
April – May
Antigua,[38] Plaza Mayor[39]
Sandra Jovel, Foreign Affairs Minister of Guatemala
Susana Asencio Lueg, Mayor of Antigua
Harald Klein, German Ambassador in Guatemala
May – June
Guatemala City, Plaza de la Constitución
Sandra Jovel, Foreign Affairs Minister of Guatemala
Ricardo Quiñónez Lemus, Mayor of Guatemala City
Eva Herlitz und Harald Klein
July –
Berlin, Tierpark Berlin
Franziska Giffey, German Minister for Family Affairs
Michael Müller, Governing Mayor of Berlin
Klaus and Eva Herlitz


  • 2003 Berlin: Having visited the exhibition in Berlin in 2002, Sir Peter Ustinov insisted that Iraq should be represented in the circle of United Buddy Bears in the future. In 2003, Iraq took part in the circle for the first time and Ustinov gave the opening address of the exhibition in the presence of more than 70 ambassadors.[40]
  • 2004 Hong Kong: Jackie Chan saw the exhibition in Berlin in 2003. On his initiative, the international bears travelled to Hong Kong one year later. Chan became the patron for this event. More than 3,000 VIPs from the world of politics, business and culture took part in the opening ceremony.[41]
  • 2005 Seoul: In the run-up to the exhibition in South Korea, two artists got the permission to travel from North Korea to Germany via Beijing in order to design a United Buddy Bear in Berlin on behalf of their country. Hence it was possible that both North- and South Korea stood together hand in hand for the first time during an art exhibition.[42]
  • 2007 Jerusalem: All countries of the Arab World were represented in the circle of 132 nations, with a Palestinian bear on an equal footing with all the other bears for the first time[43] in Jerusalem.[44]
  • 2008 Pyongyang: It was the first exhibition in North Korea that was accessible for everyone and open to everybody. According to official information, around 100,000 visitors were counted every week in Pyongyang.[45]
  • 2012 Paris: United Buddy Bears are on show near the Eiffel Tower to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the twinning of Paris and Berlin and the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty which marked the official reconciliation between France and Germany after world war two.
  • 2014 Rio de Janeiro: From May till July the famous United Buddy Bears exhibit has found its way to the shores of Rio de Janeiro just in time for the 2014 soccer World Cup. The exhibition was held on the Copacabana promenade, which attracted more than 1,000,000 people. The presentation consisted of more than 140 bear sculptures, each 2 meters (6 ft 7 in) in height and designed by a different artist.[46]
  • 2015 Havana: "Germany sends peace message through sculptures in Cuba".[47][48] 124 bears are standing "hand in hand" on the square "Plaza San Francisco de Asis". They were designed by 124 artists and represent 124 countries. All these countries – large or small, poor or rich – are placed together at the same level, including the US and Cuba! All these countries are reaching out – for tolerance, peace and democracy.[49]

The Minis[edit]

In the autumn of 2003, the circle of United Buddy Bears-The Minis — was presented in Berlin for the first time.[50] Since then, this circle has been shown in Frankfurt/Main, in Potsdam and at the Sony Center in Berlin, as well as destinations outside of Germany, including Bratislava in Slovakia, Calais in France, and Yekaterinburg and Kazan in Russia.[51][52]

Aid for children in need[edit]

As of September  2018, donations and proceeds from the sale of Buddy Bears at auction had generated a total of Euro 2,300,000 in support of UNICEF and local nonprofits that help children in need.[53]

Involved artists[edit]

In the early years, the Bears were designed by regional artists and Berlin celebrities for the exhibition Art in the City.[54] From 2002 onwards, thanks to support from Lufthansa, Air Berlin and the Berlin Hotel Association, artists from all five continents took part in the international project United Buddy Bears. More than 240 artists from over 150 countries have taken part in this project to date,[55] such as, for example Arik Brauer, René Cadena Ayala, Hernando León, Ibrahim Hazimeh, Carlos Páez Vilaró, Seo Soo-Kyoung, Helge Leiberg, Leda Luss Luyken, Ludmila Seefried-Matějková – this is also echoed by the artist and UNICEF Australian National Ambassador, Ken Done.


  • Herlitz, Eva & Klaus, Buddy Bear Berlin Show. NeptunArt Publisher, 2001. ISBN 3-85820-152-9.
  • Herlitz, Eva & Klaus, United Buddy Bears — Die Kunst der Toleranz. Bostelmann & Siebenhaar Publishers, 2003. ISBN 3-936962-00-6.
  • Herlitz, Eva & Klaus, United Buddy Bears — World Tour. NeptunArt Publisher, 2006. ISBN 3-85820-189-8.
  • Herlitz, Eva & Klaus, United Buddy Bears — The Art of Tolerance. 384 pages, English/German, December 2009, ISBN 978-3-00-029417-4.
  • Herlitz, Eva & Klaus, Buddy Bear Berlin. 4th edition, December 2015, ISBN 978-3-00-038736-4.
  • Herlitz, Eva & Klaus, United Buddy Bears — The Art of Tolerance on World Tour. 288 pages, English/German, November 2017, ISBN 978-3-00-057649-2.
  • Jian-Min Huang: Public Art as Festival. Hong Kong 2005, ISBN 986-7487-48-6 (Pages 63–111: Buddy Bears; Chinese/English).


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  4. ^ Buddy Bears on the streets of Berlin, 2001.
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  31. ^ "Latin American Herald Tribune - Germany to Pack Havana with More Than 100 Bear Sculptures". laht.com. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  32. ^ "Germany's United Buddy Bear Expo debuts in Havana". Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  33. ^ "Bears in Havana: Another Step for Tolerance". January 16, 2015.
  34. ^ "bernama.com: "Bear Replica Exhibition In Penang From Aug–Oct"".
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  38. ^ "Los 144 osos que promoverán la convivencia, el respeto y la tolerancia estarán en junio en la Ciudad de Guatemala – Prensa Libre".
  39. ^ Pocasangre, Henry. "La exposición de Osos Buddy en Antigua Guatemala que debes ver". República.gt.
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  43. ^ The Jerusalem Post, Tuesday, July 31, 2007, P. 7 (NEWS): "Jerusalem bears down for international exhibition" by Yaffi Spodek
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  55. ^ Eva und Klaus Herlitz: United Buddy Bears — The Art of Tolerance, Page 52 – 357, Berlin, 2009/10, ISBN 978-3-00-029417-4.

External links[edit]