The wall fell and everything changed – IMAGO’s archives reveal a 1990’s Berlin culture that was loud, colorful and maybe even absurd.
Punk and queer communities, DJs and musicians, squatters, artists, and plenty of graffiti – 1990’s Berlin culture was a paradise for some, a different universe for others. It wasn’t just that Germany was politically and geographically unified, it was the dawn of a new era with a cultural explosion that, in a way, is still defining Berlin today.
The wall became a mural with artists such as Manfred Butzmann, Thomas Klingenstein, Gabriel Heimler, Thierry Noir and Dmitri Vrubel establishing it and its messages as a cultural landmark. Abandoned buildings turned into squats and cultural institutions becoming the epitome of cool. Among the many which saw their glory days in the 1990’s, Tacheles in Mitte was evicted by police in 2012, and KØPI in Kreuzberg was partially evicted last year, but continues to be a symbol of what made Berlin, Berlin.
East Berlin arguably underwent the greatest changes as the streets slowly came together after an era of tension and uncertainty with the Wall separating it from its other half. Places like the Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg and Funkhaus – the former GDR radio headquarters in Treptow-Köpenick – still hold regular concerts and events.
The Berlin nightlife which has lured tourists from around the world saw its true birth in the 1990’s when clubs like Tresor were founded – but the real parties were known to be held in abandoned basements, bunkers and factories left to rot until the 1990’s Berlin culture took them over with some spray paint, loud techno music and a lot of leather.
The Love Parade became a city-wide rave with an estimated 1.5 million in attendance in 1997. Legendary queer events like Christopher Street Day and the Tuntenball (drag ball) also became a testament to the cultural explosion that erupted in the 1990’s after the wall came down.
For our New Narrative series, IMAGO reminisces on a decade when Berliner’s woke up in a different city every day and contributed to one of the greatest cultural transformations of modern times. This is 1990’s Berlin culture in photos.
See IMAGO’s curated collection on 1990’s Berlin culture.