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International competition

American artist duo to create 500 m² façade artwork in Berlin

500 m2 façade artwork in Berlin

The winning entry in the international façade art competition hosted by art and education initiative LOA Berlin (Lichtenberg Open ART) has been selected: three gigantic human figures will be adorning the gable of the tower block at Landsberger Allee 228B from summer 2014. More than 30 metres high, the people depicted in a photo-realistic style are grouped as a totem pole, a symbol of Berlin's cultural diversity. The brainchild of JBAK, American artist duo James Bullough and Addison Karl, the façade artwork will cover an area of over 500 square metres. 

Founder of the LOA Berlin initiative, housing association HOWOGE Wohnungsbaugesellschaft mbH called for submissions to the international competition in August 2013. Around 50 artists and artist teams from six countries responded to the call. 'Our vision for LOA Berlin is to create a public art gallery that grows larger every year, providing fresh momentum for art in the urban space,' explained HOWOGE CEO Stefanie Frensch. 'More surfaces of different sizes will follow in the next few years – optimally, in collaboration with partners.' 

Berlin artist Christian Awe designed the first LOA façade for Frankfurter Allee 192, in 2012. With the work of the artist duo JBAK (Addison Karl and James Bullough), Berlin will have a second artwork at an important traffic hub. 'In accord with our body of work, we have created a composition with three monumental figures in a vertical arrangement that fills the format of the Communist-era tower block,' said Addison Karl to explain the background of the artist duo's approach. 'This vertical arrangement reflects the traditional constellation of a totem – a historical symbol that stands for community and family in many cultures,' added James Bullough. The interaction between the figures and the building’s architecture make the work’s photo-realistic painterly style particularly effective. The artists use shading to create the illusion that the figures are just leaning on the wall and are standing in space. Brilliant colours in red, orange, violet, blue and yellow inject life into a neighbourhood characterised by straight lines and neutral colours.

The jury consisted of eight experts from the worlds of art, culture and politics. Thomas Köhler, director of the Berlinische Galerie modern art museum and jury member, explained the jury's decision as follows: 'The concept of the totem places Lichtenberg's special urban character in the foreground and symbolizes values important to our society. At the same time, the work meets high artistic standards and has an impressive effect when viewed from a distance.'   

The painters will begin working on the façade artwork in mid-June, and will be finished in six to eight weeks. 'What makes LOA Berlin so special is that it creates public art in a lively, tangible way,' said Stefanie Frensch. 'We will make every effort to include the immediate neighbours as well as the schools in the area.' 

While JBAK is creating the artwork, for example, HOWOGE is planning to conduct 'city art' project days for school classes in cooperation with Jugendkunstschule Lichtenberg, an art school for youths. The project days will give school children the opportunity to become involved with art in public spaces. Open house days during which interested citizens can acquire insight into the way the artists work are also part of the program. Upon completion of the project, everyone in Berlin will be invited to a big façade party planned for September.