Graffiti means playing with shapes, colors and letters. Graffiti means going out into the world, exploring, discovering, trusting, waiting, running, hiding, catching your breath and charging in again. Graffiti means spreading your name across the city, modifying your surroundings and creating something that is truly your own. Originally dating back to the hip-hop movement in 1970s New York, Graffiti has developed into one of the largest currently existing subcultures over the last decades. Its codes, rules and practices have spread from the East Coast of the United States to many areas of the world, where they have become a fixture of urban living.
The word graffiti is based on the Italian term “Graffito”, which in turn has its roots in the Greek word “graphein”: to scratch, to write or to draw. While the singular form graffito is rarely used, the plural form graffiti can refer to both individual artworks and the general culture surrounding them. Sprayers set themselves very few limits when it comes to choosing the canvas, site and level of abstraction in their works. However, some things we commonly describe as graffiti do not technically meet the definition used by the graffiti scene itself: handwritten love letters on the side of a building, commissioned decorations on the window of a store, political statements and general artistic activism in public spaces.
In addition, the continuing development of graffiti has led to a differentiation between several distinct branches that are collected under the umbrella term graffiti, despite their different topics, techniques and intentions. Although they share some common features, there are important differences between these individual phenomena that not only allow us to describe and define them more accurately, but also to question why these terms are used incorrectly, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
Graffiti in its original form, the so-called “writing”, can be found in various areas that sprayers were granted access to by the city (the so called “halls of fame”) and privately owned sites that permit the practice, as well as on many walls and trains across the city that were sprayed without permission. The category of writing includes large “pieces”, i.e. combinations of letters with a colored outline created using spray paint or wall paint, as well as smaller “tags”, which can be drawn with spray paint or various kinds of markers. Writing has created a subculture through its own internal rules and language, one that is based around specific concepts of respect and hierarchy that are not always clear or understandable to outsiders. How much fame a sprayer or crew holds within the scene depends on both the quality and quantity of their works throughout town. An additional consideration is the reputation that previous achievements have earned a particular sprayer within the scene. There is a strong focus on the specific style of a piece, which refers to the individual variations of each letter. Their color, their proportions, their typographic features, the use of “characters” (comic-style figures) and the positioning of the piece, the way it is incorporated into its physical surroundings, all play an important role. Although elements of writing sometimes make their way into mainstream culture, this subculture is founded on the idea of rejecting middle-class values and norms. This can be seen in the fact that its members share a bond of anonymity that separates them from the outside world.
In a literal sense, street art simply refers to art that is located on a street, while the word urban refers to the context of large cities and metropolises. These terms are fairly vague and can describe a wide variety of things. Since about 2005, street art tends to be characterized as a phenomenon that is descended from graffiti and shares some of its techniques and core ideas, but differs from writing in a few key areas. In general, street art tends to rely on stickers, posters and templates rather than spray cans and markers. These tools are used to bring cartoonish characters, humorous references and quotes or explicit social criticism into public space. Because street art is more easily and more intuitively readable, it is more attractive to the general public. Over the last few years, it has not only garnered commercial interest, but also become appealing enough to city politics for them to support parts of this subculture through various projects.
In addition, the launch of various books, exhibitions, fairs and auctions has established a new market for this art form. The external interests that have emerged from this development have led to the arbitrary or strategic use of terminology. The terms graffiti and street art are sometimes used interchangeably, sometimes replaced with the umbrella term urban art and sometimes presented as polar opposites. Those among the community who spray without official permits do not identify with this new development and tend to see it rather critically.
Long before teenagers started writing their nicknames on the walls of New York, various forms of communication relied on such signs and codes. From cave paintings to ancient Egypt and Rome to modern times, various examples show us that there were always humans who documented their existence this way. One of them was Kyselak, an Austrian wanderer from the 19th century who became famous for writing his name wherever he travelled.
Around the turn of the century, travelling day laborers (known as hobos or tramps) in the Pacific Northwest communicated through coded messages that they left behind in various places. Among other things, they began writing their names on the outside of trains.
“No one knows what Heiduk means” – in the 1970s, the mysterious tag Heiduk is causing a stir in Munich. More and more individuals start spraying the word on walls, without knowing why. The questions of who started this trend and what the letters mean remain unanswered to this day.
A Greek delivery driver named Dimitrios becomes one of the most well-known pioneers of graffiti in New York. During the early 1970s, he begins leaving an abbreviated version of his nickname and the street where he lives at the different stops of his route. Dimitraki from 183rd Street makes a brief splash as Taki 183.
Before New-York-style tags and pieces made their way to the streets of Munich, people begin drawing various signs and characters, like Richard Hambleton’s “Shadowmen”, created using wall paint.
The first TV broadcast of the film “Wild Style” signals the launch of the European hip-hop and graffiti movements, which had remained relatively unknown up until this point. The feature film documents the life of the sprayer Zoro and offers a glimpse at various elements of hip-hop culture (graffiti writing, breakdancing, rapping/MCing, DJing).
The first generation of a small hip-hop scene is beginning to form in Munich. Breakdancing plays an important role at this stage by garnering media attention and drawing teenagers towards graffiti. The members of this scene are mostly male and form groups that span across racial and social boundaries. Tags and pieces begin showing up in Munich, most of them experimental works or references to famous sprayers from New York (Z-Roc, Mitch, Ray). One exception to this rule is Ray X, a sprayer who sets off in a different direction with humorous social criticism and the unique characters he leaves behind at difficult spots all over town.
Tags and pieces begin showing up in Munich, most of them experimental works or references to famous sprayers from New York (Z-Roc, Mitch, Ray). One exception to this rule is Ray X, a sprayer who sets off in a different direction with humorous social criticism and the unique characters he leaves behind at difficult spots all over town.
In addition to the highly influential movies “Style Wars” and “Beat Street”, this year also sees the photographers Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant publish their book “Subway Art”. It contains a large collection of New York subway trains covered with graffiti and is considered a kind of sprayer bible until this day.
Writers like Blash and Loomit (known together as “The Force”), Roy and Roscoe (“The Jolly Rogers”), Don M Zaza and Cheech H spray the first high quality pieces in the Munich city space. Their style is influenced by the pioneers from New York City, but also shows the individual approach of each sprayer.
The exit of Poccistrasse station turns into an unofficial meeting spot, where the majority of active sprayers leave their tags.
Raimund Thomas has invited the New York legends Daze, Seen, Futura, Lady Pink, A-One, Rammellzee and Crash to his gallery. The sprayers can be seen in action next to high-end boutiques and stores.
In autumn of 1984, Cheech H. sprays the first panel on the side of a city train. Both his first and second attempt, which follows shortly thereafter, are never seen by the public as the trains are swiftly pulled from service and cleaned.
In a cold winter night, a group formed by Blash, Cheech H., Cryptic II, Don M Zaza, Roscoe and Roy heads out with the goal of covering an entire city train from left to right. The goes down in hip-hop history and attracts the attention of the police as well as local media, who cover the event. Opinions differ greatly when it comes to the issue of whether the work constitutes art or vandalism. Geltendorf Train
In response to the “Geltendorf Train”, Munich police form a special task force. At first, its officers have an easy time catching young and careless sprayers. However, things soon escalate and both sides find themselves in a game of cat-and-mouse that lasts to this day. The following years see the creation of a variety of different departments and joint task forces coordinating between Railway Police, Federal Border Guard and private security firms.
Blash and one of his colleagues are caught spraying on the flea market compound. Fortunately, the friend of the tenant who caught them is impressed with their work. Soon, first steps towards legalizing the site for graffiti are taken. The large compound turns into a meeting place for the local scene, allowing them to practice their craft, talk shop or compare their works.
One characteristic of this early stage are its rudimentary, makeshift tools. There are no stores for spray paint and graffiti equipment in Munich around the time, nor do sprayers get to communicate with one another over the internet. To make matters worse, the spray paint that is available to them is both expensive and of poor quality, forcing sprayers to find creative solutions.
A first wave of graffiti-covered trains starts rolling through town. Local public transport has yet to come up with a consistent schedule for cleaning trains, allowing them to remain in service for weeks before they are scrubbed. Stachus square turns into the scene’s first “corner”, a meeting place where sprayers share information and photograph trains.
Three sprayers from Amsterdam – Bando, Shoe and Cat22, a.k.a. Crime Time Kings – visit Munich and cover so many trains that they end up having lasting impact on the local style. They also become the first sprayers from another country to be caught by the police, although there are rumors that they were actually reported from within the community. As a result, the scene begins to put even more focus on discretion. Still, writers continue to rat out other writers on occasion.
Peter Kreuzer, a professor for European Ethnology, and Konrad Kittl, a criminal defense lawyer, found the European Graffiti Union or alongside several sprayers. The goal of the union is to drum up more legal commissions and help open up more spaces to legal graffiti in order to support graffiti culture in general and foster the considerable talent of its sprayers in particular. The EGU continues to play an important part in the local scene throughout the following years. EGU
Several books, including Henry Chalfant’s “Spraycan Art”, Peter Kreuzer’s “Das Graffiti-Lexikon” and Heiko Schielmann’s “Munich Graffiti”, are first published.
The social worker Astrid Weindl starts offering sprayers space for their craft in the “Zeugnerhof”, still named “Youth Center Berg am Laim” at this time. Over the following years, the youth center develops into an international port of call for sprayers and hip-hop activists. It also serves as a venue for jams and similar graffiti projects.
Several instances of sprayers informing on one another lead to strict precautions within the scene. The professional methods required by this approach are introduced by the COR crew (“Club of Rome”) above all, who simultaneously gain notoriety for both their new techniques and unique pieces and whole cars, causing a second wave of graffiti-covered trains to roll through Munich.
Isartor station becomes the most important corner for Munich’s graffiti scene until 1993. The following years see a few temporary corners spring up, such as the railroad tracks at Rosenheimerplatz or platform 3 at Munich East Station.
A derelict building close to St.-Martin-Straße Station turns into the first of several halls of fame used around the time, offering a location where spraying may not be legal, but is at least tolerated. These sites play an important part in allowing writers like Wet, Flin, The Viruz e.V., Sole, Paze, Zlep, Mitch 2, Caleb and many others to go hog wild and improve their skills.
The murals at the Dachau flea market show the growing talent of the Munich scene. Europe’s largest hall of fame attracts international sprayers like Chintz, Gor, Shark, Gawki, Scale, Bando, Shoe, Cat22, Skena and Zebster, who end up networking in the Bavarian capital. Public interest in the works of these sprayers is likewise on the rise, creating more legal commissions.
The “Atlantic Island Warriors” crew and the “Stone Age Kids” crew (which was already active in 1987) raise the bar for the local scene through their meticulously planned nightly outings. The crews start collaborating, often leading to multiple sprayers from both groups working on a single piece of extraordinary scope and quality.
Neon becomes the first writer from Munich to spray a large number of trains in New York. He establishes contact to the local scene and, shortly thereafter, we see trains covered by New York writers like Sento driving through Munich.
The first graffiti exhibition to be subsidized by the city of Munich, organized by the EGU and featuring sprayers such as Darco, Skel, Won, Zeal, Mitch, Baptist, Scout and Weila, takes place in Lothringerstraße.
The derelict buildings by St.-Martin-Straße and the Dachau flea market are demolished. Meanwhile, the EGU has made sure that Tumblingerstraße and many walls surrounding the Feierwerk compound on Heimeranplatz are cleared for graffiti, turning them into new halls of fame.
The sprayers Dmon and Ems visit Munich for a longer period of time and dedicate themselves to the efficient redecoration of local trains. Their work is defined by large surfaces covered in the rather simple style of bombing, although on an unprecedented level of scale and commitment. Their invasion of the local scene draws additional sprayers to Munich who want to spread their name here.
Loisach hall in Wolfratshausen is home to the first international graffiti jam, with active sprayers from New York, Italy and Scandinavia. It allows writers from Northern and Southern Europe to network.
Zebster, a writer from Mainz, is carrying out his alternative civilian service at “Zeugnerhof” and uses the time to publish the first German graffiti magazine, “On The Run”.
Zher, one of Munich’s most prolific sprayers, flees to Thailand to avoid several convictions and long prison sentences. He finds refuge in a monastery and lives there for several years. Later, he will go on to document his experience on his website.
More and more sprayers begin drawing so-called 3D-styles by trying to depict their writing as a three-dimensional object. The inspiration for this new style is rumoured to be Delta, a sprayer from Amsterdam who claims to have been the first to come up with this new approach.
Crews like IRA (“Interrail Attack”) mark the beginning of a new and highly active generation of trainbombers. This is also the first time the scene starts to differentiate between old-school writers and new sprayers.
Chromz, one of the most talented sprayers of the first generation, dies under tragic circumstances.
The EGU is plagued by a growing number of disagreements. Irreconcilable differences regarding the institutionalization and commercialization of graffiti culture will cause the union to fall apart over the following years.
Won, a sprayer from the ABC crew, covers multiple city trains with detailed characters. His images are mixed with provocative anti-authoritarian messages. His dragon drawings in particular remain legendary to this day.
The careless behavior of a few individuals from the graffiti scene leads to a wave of police raids and the arrest of a 16-year-old train writer, who remains in police custody for two weeks.
The “Living Large” jam, which will become an important part of Munich’s hip-hop scene throughout the next 10 years, takes place for the first time. It provides the scene with the opportunity to form new rap crews, to organize collaborations and for sprayers to get to know each other, which quickly turns it into the most anticipated event of the year. Rappers and writers are also starting to form new bonds between both groups, which is evidenced by their output over the next years.
The magazine “Bahnarbeiter” is published for the first time and quickly reaches cult status due to its original approach. More and more graffiti magazines are being launched across Germany and the rest of Europe, which leads the local scene to be increasingly influenced by other regions. Many writers from the second generation – like Cras, Kare and Zug – become known for their innovative styles and high level of productivity.
After Riem airport is shut down, Loomit manages to acquire permits for several large walls on the site, which he covers with the help of many international guests. As one of its last major efforts, the EGU produces a huge mural at Elisabethmarkt in Schwabing (which still exists today).
Alongside the exhibition “Graffiti München” in Pasinger Fabrik, the publishing firm “Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf” releases the book “Graffiti Art 3: Writing in München”. It becomes an instant classic thanks to an article contributed by Cemnoz, as well as the high-quality end-to-end train pieces featured in the book, and will continue to influence future generations of sprayers. Its predecessor, “Graffiti Art 2: Süddeutschland und Schweiz”, likewise plays an important part in documenting the work of the Munich scene.
From the middle of the 90s onwards, a compound in Kirchseeon last used by the auto manufacturer Fiat serves as an extralegal hall of fame for a variety of writers. The huge industrial park, formerly a factory for treating railroad ties, continues to play an important part in helping sprayers from Munich develop their style for more than ten years.
Mitch 2, one of the most influential sprayers of the first generation, passes away in his late twenties. His last piece – “2 Rebelz” at Heimeranplatz – is finished by Skiny, his partner, and is preserved as a memorial for many years.
The Kallmann museum in Ismaning hosts a graffiti exhibition and publishes the book “Theorie des Styles – Die Befreiung des Alphabets” by Cheech H., Techno and Scum alongside it.
After a police raid, the sprayer Won is charged with multiple criminal offenses. The following trial becomes the focus of public interest and extensive media coverage.
The walls underneath Brudermühl bridge, which have been painted by sprayers since the 1980s (illegally at first), become home to the inaugural "Isart" festival. From now on, they are redecorated once a year by a different group of sprayers.
“Give Them Enough To Buff”, the first video to be recorded, edited and published by sprayers themselves, is released on VHS. It features live footage of several train pieces being created.
The free hip-hop magazine “Woo-Haa” releases its first issue. The magazine, which is published at irregular intervals until 1999, includes a section showing pieces from Munich and providing additional information on the local scene.
Besides the “Der Zug ist abgefahren” event, which features works by Cemnoz, Cheech H., Flin, Neon, Paze, Smal and Z-Roc, this year also sees Won making a splash by selling material in an exhibition that was previously held in police custody.
Europe’s largest store for hip-hop merchandise and graffiti supplies opens up on Münchner Freiheit square. Until its closure in 2011, “Mighty Weeny” offers the scene a huge selection of cans, gear, sneakers and streetwear.
More and more graffiti photo galleries start showing up on the internet. Websites like “Artcrimes” allow these pieces to be seen by people all over the world. When it comes to connecting people within the Munich scene, however, the world wide web does not play a major role yet.
The AOD crew produces a variety of elaborate whole trains, many of them in collaboration with international guests.
“Die Färberei” is created as a successor to “Kulturstation” in Oberföhring and the “Zeugnerhof” in Laim. Located on Claude-Lorrain-Straße (close to Isar river, between the Au and Giesing districts), it remains an important port of call for members of the graffiti and general art community. Under the auspices of Astrid Weindl and Fred Kinzel, studios are set up, exhibitions are organized and friendships are forged.
The exhibition “Style-Planet. Watch out for the third rail. This shit is high voltage” takes place in the Children’s Museum at Munich Central Station alongside a large exhibition by the ABC crew in Kunstpark Ost.
In the late 90s, many sprayers come to Munich to leave their mark on its city trains. Some writers from Berlin settle down in Munich and become very active in the local scene. Crews like AOD, TKS, FSA, TWA, MRN, PBS and DMA put renewed energy into covering the old ET 420 city trains.
The first city trains from the new 423 series roll out in Munich. They are intended to replace the old ET 420s step by step. The decommissioned trains are parked in so-called trash yards, where they are extensively remodeled. The police soon begins patrolling this new-found playground for sprayers.
During the winter months, large parts of the city train fleet are covered with graffiti. Many pieces remain in circulation for months without being buffed.
SHE, a sprayer from the DMA crew, and his companion “Ismael” lose their life when they are hit by a train under Ganghofer bridge on August 3rd, 2001. The event inspires countless tribute pieces and tags from members of the scene. Multiple Munich newspapers cover the tragic accident in detail.
the largest digital gallery of graffiti from Munich to this day, goes online. The following years see the launch of multiple similar websites, like “graffiti-art”, “outlineas”, “dolly-busted”, “hardlines” or “desynz”. While some writers pass along pictures of their work to these sites, the majority of the community remains skeptical towards the internet and keeps their pictures to themselves or publishes them in their own magazines. „vandal.de“
A second graffiti store opens up alongside “Mighty Weeny”. “Cans & Co” can be found in Enhuberstraße.
The graffiti artist Won publishes his book “Colour Kamikaze”, in which he reflects on his work as a sprayer through comics and sketches.
The monochrome magazine “Chromoton” publishes its first issue, containing a multiple-page collage of chrome bombings from the city center of Munich.
Munich’s trainwriting scene achieves six back-to-back whole cars, one of the highlights of this eventful year. Unfortunately, the cars are soon split up and connected to different trains.
Around the turn of the millenium, the community was mainly focused on traditional techniques centered around spray can. Now different approaches can be seen on the streets: stickers, posters, stencilled pieces and tags drawn with brushes or markers signal the beginning of a new trend, the rising popularity of street art.
C100, a graphic designer from Munich, publishes the first installment of the street art book series “The Art of Rebellion”. Apart from a number of international contributions, the book also features some Munich-based artists like Burns, Emka, Flying Fortress and Meat Love. Street art is starting to be recognized as an art form by the public. Attempts to commercialize street art and establish it as a cultural institution lead to dissent among the scene.
Private security firms like the city train guard are increasingly relying on questionable methods in order to catch the more and more professional sprayers they face. The use of plainclothes police officers and helicopters provided by federal police has become routine. City trains hit by sprayers are pulled out of service and buffed as quickly as possible.
The magazine “Inner City Blues” is published for the first and last time. The high-quality publication deals with current and historic phenomena as well as the international side of graffiti and art.
The film “Monaco Nights” documents trainwriting taking place between 1998 and 2004, with a special focus on the decommissioning of the ET 420 series. The release party of the movie is attended by most of the active community.
The last train cars from the old ET 420 series are taken out of commission and replaced with the new ET 423s. In losing the opportunity to use the city train system as a place to socialize and experiment, the Munich scene also loses a part of its identity. Increased camera surveillance and patrols lead many writers from the first generations to withdraw from the community.
In response to the new city train model and increased security measures, more and more sprayers target subway trains instead. However, both local and international sprayers struggle with this new endeavor since subway trains, too, are starting to be strictly monitored.
The magazine “Round 1” publishes its first issue, featuring a gallery of walls and trains the Munich scene covered with graffiti over the last years.
The movie “Wholetrain” by director and former sprayer Florian Gaag launches in German cinemas. It is a fictional, but realistic account of the daily life of a group of sprayers. The trains shown in the film were sprayed in Poland with an official permit by Munich legends such as Cemnoz, Neon, Ciel and Won, as well as the New York sprayer Pure.
The third installment of the Parisian movie trilogy “Dirty Handz” is released on DVD, including a long segment of live footage showing sprayers from Munich at work.
Over a period of several days during the soccer World Cup in Germany, multiple city trains are hit with paint bombs, destroylines and the tag “MUC”. The general assumption is that this was a coordinated effort by several writers who joined forces.
The “Writers Corner” is founded. It is an association for sprayers that aims to cover large surfaces with graffiti on official request. The group takes legal commissions to this day.
The compounds in Lohhof and Kirchseeon are demolished and consequently lost as halls of fame. From now on, the last legal surface that can be sprayed anytime without prior arrangements is the wall on Tumblingerstraße.
The internet is becoming more and more important when it comes to connecting to other sprayers from Europe and the entire world. Sprayers start going on European rail tours to collaborate with locals from various cities, cover different kinds of trains and build up their own image gallery.
The train driver’s union “GDL” is on strike for several days. More than enough time for both Munich locals and international guests to hit the train depots and produce countless pieces.
The situation has deteriorated. There are hardly any halls of fame or abandoned buildings available. Most new sprayers target the new noise barriers along city train lines. Meanwhile, crews like CFS, TKS and GMS as well as sprayers like Capsol keep the art of trainwriting alive on local and national train lines.
The art fair “Stroke” takes place for the first time. Although some members of the local scene participate in the event, which is celebrated as a success in the media, many others distance themselves from the event and criticize its organizers for trying to commercialize graffiti and street art.
“Klick Klack” magazine publishes its first issue. The publication is focused on Munich and contains interview, portraits, essays, photos of both city and subway trains and background information on the history of the town.
Puerto Giesing, a temporary alternative exhibition space, hosts a huge block party over the summer. It includes displays, live graffiti, rap, breakdance and members of the local scene such as Nose, Zement, Fred, Sonic, Shame, Won, Rew, Riko, Baks, Alois, Diablo, Chill, Acid 79, Eazy, Jeroo, LawOne, Burns 124, Capsol, Mister, Pyro and Fence.
A new graffiti store opens up. Located near Hackerbrücke, “Ghostyard” soon becomes a meeting place for different generations of sprayers.
Various organizations run by active members of the graffiti community put increased effort towards legalizing new surfaces. The majority of these locations are in need of renovations: run-down walls or underpasses that can be spruced up and redecorated, often by painting over older graffiti. Nevertheless, city government sees this cooperation with the civil engineering department as a win-win situation for both parties.
Most graffiti magazines have ceased production at this point. It is becoming increasingly clear that the internet will be the dominant force when it comes to displaying and consuming graffiti images. New pages are being set up on social networks like Facebook to try to give an overview of current events in Munich's graffiti scene.
Many younger crews are making a name for themselves in the city center and on its public transportation network. They display a wide variety of different styles.
There is a notable increase in elaborate collaborations by different crews on Munich’s city trains. Crews like ASC, BHZ, MSP, TRR, YGS and WK leave their mark on these trains.
With the “Backjump Shop” located close to the hall of fame in Tumblingerstraße, Munich gains its third graffiti store, which will remain in business for nearly two years. At the same time, the area north of the hall of fame, the Viehhof compound, is temporarily opened up for sprayers.
On the S-train lines S20, S4 and S2 the train model ET 420 is put into service again. The legendary “Olympic-games-series” had been discarded in 2004 and got replaced by the new model 423. The train model has achieved an almost mystical cult status, not only in the sphere of graffiti writers. Its comeback is accompanied with several panels done by the local writer scene.
“Klick Klack” magazine publishes its second issue, titled “32 Notes on Graffiti”. Apart from some local writers, this new issue also features several important artists from other parts of Germany and Europe.
The crew WAK sprays numerous rooftops throughout the city. What sets these works apart is not only their number, but also the fact that their color choices correspond to the chosen locations.
The DVD “No Name No Fame” features live footage of sprayers from different countries painting subway trains in their hometown, including some from Munich.
The city council decides to start supporting street art projects with a yearly, six-figure budget. The association “Positive-Propaganda” earns the lion's share of the budget and launches several projects featuring international artists like Blu or Obey. In addition, the “Deadline” festival is initiated, allowing artists from Munich to spray on the Viehhof compound, an area of 1200 square meters.
Munich becomes the first city to hire an official “graffiti case officer”. David Kammerer, a.k.a. Cemnoz, takes on the responsibility of trying to reconcile the interests of both sprayers and the city government. This new cooperation ends after only a few months.
A large part of Munich’s city train fleet has been hit with paint bombs and destroylines. The situation is reminiscent of the coordinated effort from 2006. It draws a lot of media attention.
“No Name No Fame” magazine publishes its first issue. The main focus of this large-format publication are Munich train pieces from the last few years.
“Galerie Kronsbein”, which is focused on pop and urban art, hosts solo exhibitions by Banksy and Blek Le Rat. By this point, it has become abundantly clear that despite the anarchistic and alternative roots of graffiti and street art, certain aspects of this culture can be appropriated to serve a conservative, capitalistic ideology.
Anonym activists commit various colour attacks on new buildings and real estate properties in the luxury sector. A form of resisting the ongoing city´s gentrification process – rising rents, new residents, blank walls and the atmosphere in the various districts are forming a reciprocal relationship. The paint actions seem to hit the nail on the head, extensive reports in several newspapers are about to follow.
Sponsored and initiated by one of the biggest and globally operating real estate companies, the former premises of „Siemens“ becomes the scenery of a big mural project in Munich-Sendling. Internationally renowned artists of the graffiti and the street art scene like OSGEMEOS and ARYZ are invited to the SCALE festival and collaborate with LOOMIT, DAIM and others to decorate the facades of the buildings. The proceeds of printed editions by the artists go to new construction projects of the foundation for needy children.
The „S-Bahn Munich“ increasingly provides the surfaces of its trains for advertising purposes. Some of the large motives strongly resemble the aesthetics and placements of graffiti pieces. A development that seems paradigmatic for nowadays urban sign landscapes where it is getting more and more complex and harder to distinguish one from one another. Lots of symbols that look like graffiti, are not the expression of an individual, but part of a metropolitan marketing concept.
While commissioned graffiti art mostly served the decoration and the revaluation of older and shabby walls, now there is a clear tendency that graffiti and street art concepts also define the facades of new buildings. Thereby the general impression of whole streets is ruled by the appearance of colorful murals and the architecture itself only plays a subordinate role.
After the exhibition “Tutankhamun – his tomb and his treasures” one of Europes leading concert organizers stages a graffiti theme park in the little Olympia hall with the name „Magic city“. Events that use graffiti and street art to create metropolitan atmosphere and make it accessible to a wide audience, become more and more popular. Exhibitions with similar concepts like f.e. “Kunstlabor München” will follow.
Munichs publishing house Klick Klack presents the book “Zar Zip Fly Zoro – the first layer of graffiti in Munich”. The never-before-seen photographs from the archives of recently deceased attorney Konrad Kittl and Anthropology academic Peter Kreuzer. In the beginning of the 1980es they started to take pictures of the very first pieces of Munich and thus documented the beginning of Europes graffiti movement. The attached essay by the author Gregor Schliep reflects the meaning of the images back then and today. For the two-day release event the photographs of the book are projected on the rear wall of the Glyptothek building followed by the book release at Kunstverein München including a panel discussion and a live concert.
On Munichs S-trains a wide range of quick spontaneous actions and highly elaborated productions can be observed. The most active crews collaborate with older and younger comrades and can´t always get prevented by the increasingly extensive police surveillance from leaving their mark on the wagons.
At Munichs “Viehhof” area discarded tram and subway cars are getting parked and are allowed to get painted. They are part of a cultural and amusement business that is organized under the leadership of Daniel Hahn. The involved groups of intereset don´t always have equal opinions about what to happen in the area of the former hall of fame.
A lot of the commissioned graffiti work that is intended to prevent forms of vandalism or to cover illegally painted pieces is getting destroyed by parts of the sprayer scene with tags or so called damage lines. This reactions poses questions which effect graffiti pieces can have regarding their intention and points out that this issue is more complex than it is assumed by external persons or by clients.
The interdisciplinary exhibition project takes place at a former industrial complex in Zschokkestrasse 36. Curated by Laura Lang, Loomit and Daniel Man more than 100 artists and cultural players from different genres like sculpture, painting, graffiti and street art, performance art, installation, dance, theatre, music and architecture completely redesign the building before it will be demolished. Next to a lot of positive feedback also critical voices appear towards the investor and the commercial sponsors of the project. Z Common Ground
The role of social media is getting more and more important also for the graffiti scene and its self-representation. Whereas in the past it seemed unimaginable to use the internet as a tool of distribution for ones own pictures, nowadays it is possible to find the individualized accounts of various artists on Instagram, to follow their activities or even to get in direct contact with them.
The parallels between graffiti- and tattoo become increasingly clear and a broad range of different styles emerges. Next to the already existing studios like Black Rabbit Ink, Ghostyard Tattoo or Mighty Weeny, Munich sprayers of the younger generation professionalize their tattoo game and network internationally trough social media with their like-minded ones and prospective clients.
While Munich represents a very clean cityscape compared to other metropolitan areas, every now and then there are street corners that get hit hardly by different protagonists of the graffiti scene. Unlike the impression of the past years, at the end of the decade the removal of damages seems to get neglected so that new tags and pieces come together with the relics of previous generations.
„Live Love Lose“ publishes the video „No ticket for the Wicked“ containing a collection of elaborated shot footage of (live-)actions on trains, of which the majority takes place in the subway tunnels of Munich documenting the activities of the past years. The release event gets celebrated in the jam-packed spaces of Bahnwärter Thiel.
A surprisingly consistence of quantity dominates the view on the Munich s-train system. Accompanied by an accurate online-documentation including a vivid comment section, a selfishly and strategically operating sprayerscene is to be found. An overconfidence in the own activities combined with the willingness to rather outmaneuver the opponents than to see them as part of the same community shapes the direction of a scene that has its most professional moments when it comes to the action itself because every mistake can result in a bust.
Confidently announced as the biggest graffiti event since the 1980s including an international line-up, the "Return of the Boomletters" Jam takes place at the Schlachthofgelände and the Hall Of Fame Tumblingerstrasse. In addition to the live-sprayings, records are being played and live acts rap. Many writers of the early graffiti movement get together and exchange good old stories from back in the days.
In the MUCA (Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art) the first retrospective of the Canadian street artist Richard Hambleton is shown. The entitled "godfather of streetart" had already painted his abstract figures in the beginning of the 1980s in Munichs public space, which he used for his art long time before terms and categories like streetart, graffiti or urban art had become common usage.
Furthermore Hambleton was part of the New York art scence around Warhol, Basquiat and Keith Haring for quite some time, however he never achieved the same significance like his contemporaries.
The COVID-19 pandemic also doesn´t leave the graffiti scene untouched. For one thing many pieces and explicit statements witness to experiences in this exceptional global situation while the restrictive measures to control the disease affect the spraying actions directly – for instance the night curfew entails eerily empty innercities whereas the mere presence outside attracts attention and require twice as good answers in case one gets pulled over by the police.
Already for more than one decade graffiti of football fans can be found all over the city of Munich. The amount of pictures which are mostly done by so called "ultra" groups reach a new peak. Stilistically the bombings follow traditional stylewriting aesthetics whereas territorial conflicts and mutual hatred play a dominant role resulting in intense cross-out-wars.
Caused by pandemic limitations of leisure time activities interviews and podcasts become more and more popular. Especially the ilovegraffiti platform manages it to bring a considerable number of the big names to speak and invites to excessive conversations that are partially published with distorted voices in order to preserve the writers anonymity. Also Munich oldschoolers like Cowboy69 or Loomit reflect unreservedly on the past, their own biography as well as contemporary discourses relating to the graff game.
Although Lady Pink already was one of the main protagonist in the movie Wildstyle in the 1980s, it takes more than 30 years until female writers and crews form a significant part of the graffiti scene. Until a few years ago the United Female Artists (UFA) and a small number of individual writers like the Munich based sprayer Zora (†2021) were the odd ones out. “It’s not just a boys club. We have a sisterhood thing going” is how Lady Pink describes the current development. Also in Munich more and more FLINTA* mix up the graffiti bubble which still remains to be dominated by men.
Even though Munich’s public transport models like the tram, the subway and regional trains get painted regularly, the S-train still serves as the most popular display to pave the way through the urban jungle. Since several years now, the Bad Habitz Crew stands out with conceptual wholecars produced in team work and within limited time slots. Stilistically they refer to traditional elements of the Munich old school and combine their letters with caracters selected from different comic cartoons.
Alongside the large expansion of the online-graffiti-stream on social media, still pieces of printed matter get published. The Munich based RSK crew celebrates its 10th jubilee with “Ohne dich fahr ich heut Nacht nicht ein” showing their heterogeneous graff productions on 48 pages. While the “HALLO” monograph in magazine form documents the original and at the same time polarizing activities of the youngstar, the “Feel The Steel” issue by the “Munich Graffiti Library” wallows in nostalgic memories of former commuter train models with the attempt to bring back the flavour of the 1990s and 2000s in southern Germany.
In cities like Berlin, Hamburg or Dortmund writers of the first generation continue to paint. This doesn’t only represent a historically grown scene, but also leads to a wide range of different styles. Unlike that, in Munich the inactivity of Munich’s old school gets attributed to the activity of the prosecuting authorities, the habitus of the safe, clean and wealthy city or even the heroin wave of the 1980s and the 1990s which many writers had to pay with their lifes. The imagination of rolling names in colorful letters painted by writers of former generations combined with new qualities would not only be interesting regarding the pictorial level. It would also breath new life into deadlocked patterns and (pseudo-)hierarchical thinking.
In the past decades it was unusual to talk about one’s own graffiti past except among like-minded people or withing circles of close friends. Nowadays established graphic designers like Mirko Borsche or Christian Hundertmark willingly provide details about their early and short episode of illegal graff activities in podcasts and interviews. So the tide turns from the secret underground gem into the well appreciated possibility to boost the carrer and to endow it with (sub-)cultural capital.
Since the act of spraying graffiti comes with certain risks, it is important to be aware of certain risks. By minimizing the dangers associated with graffiti, damages and negative consequences can be limited or prevented entirely. Above all, it is important to both think for yourself and communicate with others.
The contents of spray cans – i.e. pigments, solvents and aerosols – not only pollute the environment, but also enter into your respiratory tract when you spray. More information can be found on the cans themselves or by contacting their manufacturers. In order to prevent physical harm, it is recommended to wear a gasmask when spraying over long periods of time or in poorly ventilated areas. You can find gas masks in graffiti stores or hardware stores. Make sure to follow the instructions for proper use, for instance by changing filters regularly. Since spray paint and aerosols can also be absorbed through your skin and graffiti artists can be a bit "sloppy" with their paint, it is ideal to wear rubber gloves and old, long-sleeved clothes that you don't mind getting dirty.
Railway tracks are a dangerous place that is restricted to authorized personnel for a reason. Apart from the difficulty of finding your bearings in the dark, on paths not intended for your use, and the danger of getting caught in the switches of the tracks, the biggest threat by far is posed by incoming trains. Even experienced sprayers sometimes misjudge these risks, which regularly leads to fatal accidents. Likewise, coming into contact or even just close proximity to the power lines () located next to the tracks or above the trains can have lethal consequences in a matter of seconds. electric arc
The graffiti scene follows specific rules that demand a certain amount of respect for its internal hierarchies. If you are careful, patient and show interest, you can learn from more experienced sprayers to see what you need to look out for. Breaking the community's unwritten laws, however, can lead to altercations that you should be aware of. Similarly, the adrenaline rush and panicked states you experience while playing cat and mouse with the police can get out of hand and lead to anguish or full-blown paranoia.
The following sections merely aim to sketch a few key points and are not intended as legal advice, which can only be provided by a qualified lawyer. There are several lawyers who specialize in graffiti-related offenses and can be considered experts on the subject. If you require legal advice, you should contact them immediately. We simply want to provide an example of what might happen to a sprayer who comes into contact with the law over illegal graffiti, and how those affected can respond to different possible situations. The following example is purely fictional.
Martin and Stefan, 19 and 21 years old, are spraying a gray concrete wall in the middle of the night. They are spotted by Mr. Meier, who is out for a walk with his dog and none too pleased with their actions. He decides to call the police. When the officers arrive on the scene of the crime, the sprayers manage to escape for now. Since it can’t be ruled out that they fled over the nearby rail line, it is closed for traffic and a police helicopter is called in to aid in the search. Soon after, Martin is stopped by a plainclothes officer at the train station nearby. Although he managed to get rid of his spray cans on the way to the station, his backpack still contains a bottlecap and a pair of latex gloves, which he wore to make sure he doesn’t leave fingerprints on the cans. To make matters worse, there is wet paint on the sleeve of his jacket and his white sweatshirt matches the description given by Mr. Meier. Enough evidence to consider him a suspect and bring him in for questioning. Stefan picked a different escape route, kept out of view and remains at large. A few hours later, the search for him is called off.
When arrives at the station, Martin is subjected to a body-search and brought into a cell, where he is held in police custody. Two hours later, the officers return to begin questioning him. At this point, Martin is only required to provide information as to his identity. Beyond that, he has the right to refuse to answer questions. Overwhelmed by the pressure of the situation he finds himself in, Martin nonetheless enters into a conversation and, after some hesitation, shares certain details with the officers. He argues that the newly built wall was ugly in its all-gray state and that spraying it with paint doesn't damage it. The officers point out that the wall doesn't have to break down for it to count as damage to property, simply drawing on it with chalk or putting a sticker on it is enough. The police officers have seized Martin's phone and are trying to find clues about the identity of their second suspect in his contacts. Since searching the phone didn't provide them with compelling evidence, they try to get Martin to talk by claiming that they caught his friend. Martin, who is not required to say anything, slips up and mentions the name of his friend, a name that is also in the contacts on his phone. Stefan has now become a suspect for the officers. After being questioned, Martin has his fingerprints and photograph taken.
Once the police identified Stefan as a suspect thanks to Martin’s phone data and testimony, they arrange for both of their homes to be searched based on exigent circumstances. At this point, it is early in the morning. The officers take Martin home to the flat where he lives with his parents. His mother is visibly shocked when she opens the door and the officers tell her what happened. She reads through the warrant (without one, she wouldn’t be required to let the officers enter her home) and leads the officers into Martin’s room. After a 90-minute search, they confiscate his laptop, his camera, several SD cards, some sketches and his old butterfly knife. Martin receives a report that lists the seized items. Afterwards, the officers briefly search his sister's room. While this is happening, the station has sent another unit to the flat where Stefan lives by himself. He is rudely awakened and confronted with last night’s events, but makes use of his right to refuse questioning and merely shows the officers his ID. The officers search his flat and confiscate a book about street art and a pair of shoes that he might have worn last night and that might match the footprints at the scene of the crime.
After the house searches, the police goes quiet for a while. Martin has to endure a few uncomfortable conversations with his parents, but mostly misses his laptop, which he used for homework and to surf the internet. In addition, he is worried what the police might learn about him through the seized items and what sort of consequences he might still face. HIs parents expect him to confess and to give up spraying for good.
After hesitating for a few days, Stefan decided to hire a lawyer so he could request access to the police records. The only evidence they have against him is Martin's testimony. Comparing his shoes to the footprints on site proved inconclusive. Stefan's lawyer contacts Martin and convinces him to retract the claim that Stefan was with him based on the state of shock he was in after being taken into police custody. He recommends that Martin's family hire a lawyer as well, since the sentence has not yet been set and the damage can still be minimized. Martin's family rejects his advice. A few months later, the case is brought to trial. Martin is tried as a juvenile delinquent and first-time offender and treated with the according degree of leniency. Instead of serving hours of community service, he is given the chance to take part in a special where he will remove his own graffiti and a few others, allowing him to reduce the damage sum he is being tried for. Stefan, by contrast, receives a letter about six months later, notifying him that the charges against him have been dropped. program
When it comes to graffiti, the question of how to approach the internet is a sensitive issue. Due to social media and a larger shift in the forms of communication we use today, many of the conversations and discussions dealing with the topic of graffiti take place on different platforms than they did a few years ago. However, since the internet does not guarantee anonymity, you should keep in mind that your identity could be revealed to both the police and other members of the scene. You should think twice whether it’s worth it to use the internet as a platform for posting images, sharing your opinion and commenting on other people’s work, if it means revealing information that could end up hurting them. Another aspect to take into consideration is the fact that this data is often saved on your phone, not just your computer, which is why it can be used as evidence or a source for further information in certain situations.
Halls of fame are sites where anyone can spray graffiti and that are accessible around the clock. However, these need to be officially designated in order to allow for their legal use. Even in a hall of fame, there are certain unwritten laws to follow and you might not realize what they are until you spend more time in the community. locations
As a beginner, you should only spray over other people’s work if it's not a very time-consuming piece, if it’s already partly covered up or if it’s located in one of the less noticeable areas of the site. As you talk to other sprayers, as you learn to admire their work and as you gain more experience, you will soon develop an intuitive understanding of what is acceptable and what isn’t. Breaking these rules can lead to arguments and altercations. If you would like to stay anonymous, you should be aware that others might see you when you are out in public and could figure out your pseudonym based on the letters and style they see you spray. Since halls of fame are also intended to be accessible to the general public, you should always remove used cans and other waste. Similarly, the surrounding area (adjacent walls/streets) should be kept clean and treated with respect if you want the city to continue granting their official permit for such sites.
In order to support graffiti projects by local and international writers, the city of Munich established a sponsorship program for graffiti, street art and urban art in 2015. This program subsidizes individual, non-commercial projects as well as collaborations and offers additional support when it comes to finding suitable walls and securing official permits. Applications can be sent by individuals, non-profit organizations or cultural initiatives. Promotional campaigns are barred from applying. You can find additional detail about the sponsorship requierments . here
The Municipal Department of Arts and Culture sponsors events and projects by artists, cultural initiatives and nonprofit organizations that deal with urban developments or "new" forms of art and culture. It also provides counselling for how to get such projects off the ground.
Abteilung 3 (Urbane Kulturen)
+49 (0) 89 23324364
If you want to apply for public sponsorship, send a brief description of your project and a rough cost estimate to the Municipal Department of Arts and Culture . If you receive confirmation that your project meets the requirements and is eligible for support, the next step is to fill out, sign and send in an by mail (send the original document, not a copy). If you have any questions about the form, we'd be happy to help. There are no official deadlines, applications can be sent in at any time. application form
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The shown pictures serve as a documentary and shall not engage anybody to commit crimes, nor glorify these. The shown pictures serve as a documentary and shall not engage anybody to commit crimes, nor glorify these.
The Muenchengraffiti.de History got an content update for 2019
Muenchengraffiti.de is back online! Caused by Munich’s police authority the website had to be taken offline for the duration of almost one year. Ways of reporting about graffiti, the way of dealing with a culture that is seeking its social standing in and outside the law and different interpretations of what is art and what is vandalism were part of the debates. The website will shortly be updated in its different sections and exists from now on in German and English.
Check it out!
Home of the first spray painted trains in the Republic of Germany and former stronghold for European graffiti culture – Munich’s graffiti scene can look back on a long and eventful history filled with a variety of different styles and approaches. It’s difficult to put into words, let alone writing, what makes graffiti so unique and so diverse. Everyone tells the story of graffiti a little differently, and a good thing too.
We owe a lot to graffiti – from good friends to weird acquaintances and extraordinary travels – but most important of all are the memories, both good and bad. Curiosity has always been key here, the drive to check what's behind a fence, to stray off the beaten path, both physically and mentally. On this website, you'll find information about the current state of graffiti as well as a few glimpses into its storied past, but, most importantly, you’ll find an incentive to dig deeper, to go out there, to try, to fail and to try again. You can’t experience graffiti over the internet, graffiti has to be felt, smelled and tasted.
Klick Klack Publishing,