Along the Wall!

Our reporters cycle with artist and Bavaria insider Thomas Neumann to Munich's most casual street art spots. A day full of colorful joy and with a fine touch of black painting. Text: Florian Kinast, Photos: Thomas Linkel

Reading time: 14 minutes

Street Art Bike Tour through Munich

Our tour with Munich graphic artist and painter Thomas Neumann starts in the north of the city, in the Olympic Village. For the 1972 Olympic Games, architect Werner Wirsing designed 800 small houses as athletes' accommodation. "They were the Tiny Houses of the Seventies," says Thomas. "They lasted 35 years. Then the roofs leaked and the plumbing broke." Mould was everywhere, and in 2007 the wrecking ball swung.

Start: Connollystraße, Munich Olympic Village

Instead, 1,052 new bungalows were built, all 18.8 instead of 23 square metres in size, on two floors with a balcony, bathroom, bed and double electric cooking plate. They are in great demand among students, and the waiting time for a free apartment (at a monthly rent of 330 to 349 euros) is five to six semesters.

Once you're in, you can paint the façade yourself. The paint is provided by the student union, the brushes can be obtained from the "colour tutor". And so the visitor wanders through a collection of colourful house walls with completely different motifs. Wonderful and changeable.

The spectrum ranges from the gentle blue romance of the North Sea to the gloomy skyline of a million-strong juggernaut, plus portraits of Donald Duck, Walter White, Homer Simpson and Breaking Bad. In between, a deceptively real Roy Lichtenstein.

The duration of residence is limited to a maximum of six semesters. After that comes the next resident and the next coat of paint.

5 km. 16 min.
To Landshuter Allee 54

On the bike we continue to the second stop of the tour, through the Olympiapark to Landshuter Allee and the huge mural on the side front of house number 54. A massive mural covering 190 square metres. An area larger than ten Olympic bungalows, dominated by a black can of oil. The work by Shepard Fairey and his team was completed in two days in 2015.

The US-American is an international star of street art and became world famous in 2008 with his Hope campaign and the long iconic portraits of Barack Obama. The main theme of Fairey's art is criticism of capitalism and greed for profit, says Thomas. The motif here reminds him of Warhol's tomato can, but is directed against the omnipotence of oil companies. Hence the title: "Paint It Black".

1.4 km. 8 min.
To the Donnersberg Bridge

Enough black painting, on to more colourful fun. To the Donnersberg Bridge. With more than 120,000 vehicles per day, it is one of the busiest inner-city overpasses in Europe. Its most beautiful sides are hidden under the carriageway.

"An open-air gallery was created in 2011 with the support of the building department, where a good fifty artists immortalised themselves with great works," says Thomas. On grey walls and concrete pillars, with intricate abstract graffiti lines and cheerful comic figures, also homages to the hometown with the Münchner Kindl and a portrait of Karl Valentin, in between gloomy demons, futuristic-looking mythical figures and fantastic animal creatures.

2.3 km. 9 min.
To Bayerstraße 69

We cycle in the direction of the city centre, over the Hackerbrücke, whose iron girders over the railway tracks are popular chill-out hotspots for after-work beers, and continue to number 69 in Bayerstraße, right next to the publishing house of the “Münchner Merkur” and “tz”. The mural is 23 metres high and 11.5 metres wide. There was no cutting corners.

"The work was created in summer 2017," Thomas knows, "back then, the two Munich artists Loomit and Won ABC sprayed a huge picture in honour of Georg Elser on the initiative of the then tz editor-in-chief Rudi Bögel." Elser carried out an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler in 1939, but it failed. Around Elser's portrait, many small details on the theme of tyranny and rebellion, with figures from Julius Caesar to Robin Hood, from Zorro to Darth Vader. Modern memorial. A wonderful hidden object of resistance.

1.6 km. 8 min.
To Hotterstraße 12

The MUCA aka Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art was opened in 2016 in the rooms of the former municipal transformer station by art lovers and husband and wife Stephanie and Christian Utz. Today, it offers a permanent home for contemporary art from all over the world on three floors.

"There's a comprehensive tribute there to Richard Hambleton, the unjustly almost forgotten Godfather of Street Art," says Thomas, "and included are original Banksys." Such as the oil painting "Are You Using That Chair" as a humorous reference to Edward Hopper's legendary painting "Nighthawks".

Museum for Urban Art: The MUCA in Hotterstraße

2.8 km. 10 min.
To the Luitpold Bridge

Late afternoon. We roll through the small streets of the posh Lehel district to the Luitpoldbrücke and over the Isar into the underground. The small pedestrian tunnel at the Friedensengel is another urban open-air gallery where Loomit has been able to realise himself together with other artists in recent years.

"It's all legal," says Thomas, who still remembers how Loomit alias Mathias Köhler alias Cryptic2 was one of the seven contributors to the unforgettable "Geltendorf Train" in March 1985, the first completely spray-painted S-Bahn train in all of Germany. And how Köhler went from being a petty criminal wanted by the police to Munich's best-known sprayer, who was awarded the Schwabing Art Prize.

8.6 km. 33 min.
Through the Werksviertel to the Old Cattle Yard

The Werksviertel (factory quarter) behind the Ostbahnhof is an urban quarter under reconstruction that offers space for provisional buildings like the 500-square-metre Container Collective. Then it's on to the huge wasteland of the old Viehhof, where Munich is the furthest thing from its image as a nouveau riche, gentrified, slickly polished and fancy stronghold. Where the city can also get dirty, where it seems as if the old Munich has occupied a last bastion, a Gallic glass shard quarter.

If you only look at the colourful walls next to the "Bahnwärter Thiel", the alternative cultural and meeting place of young Munich, you risk getting a flat tyre from the broken bottles between the cobblestones.

4 km. 14 min.
To Short Ribs and Beer

The last stage leads through Sendling and Thalkirchen to the "Asam Schlössl". Formerly the home of master builder Cosmas Damian Asam, today it is a restaurant run by Shane and Barbara McMahon. Thomas has his paintings hanging there, as he does at the Nockherberg or in the "Moar Alm" in Sachsenkam.

We talk for a long time in the "Asam Schlössl" over braised ox short rib and a half Augustiner about home, customs, identity and tradition. About the unaffected Bavaria far away from cheap Musikantenstadl clichés, as it is found in Thomasʼ works. Plain, simple, straightforward. An honest image of Bavaria.

Over the second half, a pleasant musing begins about our day trip between the Olympiadorf and Schlössl. With small graffiti and the large murals at Munich traffic junctions like the, according to cabaret artist and word artist Willy Astor "greislich krumma" (terribly crooked) Donnersberger Brücke or the congestion-plagued Landshuter Allee.

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