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Berlin neighbours shocked by huge ‘bloody refugee’ mural

In typical Berlin style, an artist painted a massive mural with political overtones, stretching the entire length of an apartment building. But residents are far from pleased.

Berlin neighbours shocked by huge 'bloody refugee' mural
Photo: I Love Tegel/DPA.

The mural depicts a girl in a nightgown, bloodied from the head down and posed as if she were leaning against the building on which she is drawn, perhaps peering into the distance. Below her also appears to be a floor covered in blood.

Across from her in a forest is a naked, handcuffed body, pierced by arrows.

It’s one of many larger-than-life painted political statements that add to Berlin’s charm as an avant-garde city, and which draw tourists each year to walking tours of its street art.

But the 42-metre-high mural on a wall in the Tegel neighbourhood of north Berlin has left residents feeling anything but charmed.

“It’s very, very frightening,” one mother of a five-year-old boy who attends a nearby Kindergarten told Berlin daily Tagesspiegel on Wednesday.

“The worst is the impaled man… There is so much suffering in the world, but you don’t have to also present it to us in such a big way.”

The mother isn’t alone: other residents in the neighbourhood have started to collect signatures to petition for the painting to be removed.

The mural is the work of Spanish artist Borondo and is supposed to be related to the refugee crisis, according to a spokesperson from the housing association Gewobag, which commissioned the art.

It is part of a series called Artpark Tegel which so far consists of five murals by the street art network Urban Nation.

There is also sensitivity to the graphic work because several people have killed themselves by jumping off the building next door, Felix Schönebeck, a spokesperson for the neighbourhood initiative I Love Tegel told Tagesspiegel. 

Then there is the refugee home being planned for the area.

“There will be people living there who fled from wars and lived through horrible things. For this reason I also find the image inappropriate,” said 26-year-old law student.

But the spokesperson from Gewobag said the picture depicts hope as well as pain.

“The child sees a person who despite being hit with arrows can stand upright and is strong.”

Photo: DPA.

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Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.

mata-mua_gauguin-madrid

In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.

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