BIKE TOUR Art along the River
The Panke is a small river with a total length of approx. 27 km. Its spring is located in the Barnim Nature Park, near Bernau. It enters Berlin in Buch, the northernmost part of the borough of Pankow. From there it meanders a further 18 km, passing through several city districts. A variety of public artworks can be discovered along the banks of the river. Many of them were created during the East German era. During our tour along the Panke, we take a closer look at a selection of art objects. Some follow the tenets of socialist realism, a style of realistic art that was developed during the postwar period to embody communist ideals. In socialist countries, like the former East Germany (GDR), art was supposed to put the human being front and center. Other artworks along the Panke spring from more independent ources.
Station 1: Mitwelt (Our Shared World), Artist: Karl Blümel
Location: Schlosspark Buch, "Mitwelt" (Our Shared World), Artist: Karl Blümel, Date: 1987, Installation: 1988/1989, Material: sandstone
Our Shared World is a sculpture by Karl Blümel. He created it for the International Sculpture Symposium, which took place in Berlin in 1987 to coincide with the city’s 750th anniversary. The sculpture, which is made of hewn sandstone, consists of a variety of motifs, whose upward movement suggests that it is meant to be read vertically from bottom to top. People, animals, plants, and everyday objects cover the entire stele, and are interwoven with the branches of a tree whose foliage towers above the rest. The naked gures reaching for the fruits of the tree recall Adam and Eve. Conceived as a tree of life, it symbolically connects heaven and earth, this world and the next. The title Our Shared World, or Mitwelt in German, describes the unity of man and nature. In the Mitwelt human beings and nature are just as interconnected as the sculpture’s carved motifs.
Station 2: Mutter mit Kind (Mother and Child), Artist: Gerhard Rommel (1934–2014)
Location: Walter-Friedrich-Straße 1, corner of Wiltbergstraße, Buch, "Mutter mit Kind" (Mother and Child), Artist: Gerhard Rommel (1934–2014), Date: 1968 (design); 1984 (cast), Installation: 1987 Neu-Lindenberg, Material: bronze
The two facing gures in Gerhard Rommel’s sculpture are cleverly arranged so that they can be viewed simultaneously from the front and rear. Though their compact bodies are massive, their naked togetherness suggests a moment of light intimacy. The representation of the female body – defenseless and at the mercy of its environment – is a product of outdated ideas about femininity and the role of mothers. Ironically, Rummel conceived the design in 1968 – the year that the women’s liberation movement gained traction. The sculpture was not cast until 1984. It was erected in 1987.
Station 3: Gänsetrieb (Goose Meadow), Artist: Nikolaus Bode (*1938)
Location: green space along Franz-Schmidt-Straße, Buch, "Gänsetrieb" (Goose Meadow), Artist: Nikolaus Bode (*1938), Date: 1976/1981, Installation: 1976–1981, Material: bronze, concrete, granite
The group features a goose apping its wings amid four other geese. The rural motif of the „goose meadow” contrasts with the modern, prefabricated buildings that surround the gures. The sculpture has a nostalgic element. It is meant to recall the importance of agriculture for East Germany’s image of itself as a „country of workers and peasants”. Nikolaus Bode, Sabine Zache, and Hans-Helmut Müller placed the group here between 1976 and 1981 to complement the landscape architecture of the new adjoining housing development.
Station 4: Bauarbeiter (Construction Worker), Artist: Evelyn Nitzsche-Hartnick (1931–2017)
Location: Mendelstraße, corner of Sti sweg (across from Sti sweg 33/34), "Bauarbeiter" (Construction Worker), Artist: Evelyn Nitzsche-Hartnick (1931–2017)Date: 1955 (design), 1961 (cast), Installation: 1965 (?), Material: bronze; clinker brick (base)
The bronze sculpture by Evelyn Nitzsche-Hartnick was erected on the grounds of a housing estate completed in 1959. Placing artworks alongside public buildings was an important part of East German social policy,
especially during the country’s early years. The sculpture is in the style of socialist realism, which is characterized by a gurative language of idealized forms. The construction worker, carrying a large stone on his le shoulder, appears hard working, self-con dent, honest, loyal. Another stone of the same size stands upright at his feet, symbolizing the adjacent apartment building. The sculpture is a reminder of the many people who actively participated in the land’s reconstruction a er the Second World War and symbolizes East Germany’s image as a „country of workers and peasants”.
Station 5: Grenzsoldat mit Kind (Border Soldier with Child), Artist: Gerhard Rommel (1934–2014)
Location: Breite Straße / Bleichröder Park, "Grenzsoldat mit Kind" (Border Soldier with Child), Artist: Gerhard Rommel (1934–2014), Date: 1969, Installation: 1971, Material: bronze
A man and a boy are on a bench talking. The man, who is shirtless, faces the boy, who is wearing only an undershirt and who seems to be donning a hat. On closer inspection, the hat reveals itself to be a patrol cap of the sort worn by border guards in East Germany’s National People’s Army (NVA). The man appears to have just given his cap to the near-naked boy, whom he supports with his le hand. The impression made by the sculpture is that of an animated snapshot. It expresses the bond between the NVA and the youth and the army’s commitment to their socialist upbringing. The sculpture was erected in 1971. The surrounding park, which was designed with young people in mind, opened a few years earlier. Rommel’s Border Soldier with Child was created one year a er the Prague SpringRommel made the border soldier in his own likeness – perhaps a sign of his identi cation with the NVA and the GDR.
Station 6: Mutter und Kind (Mother and Child), Artist: Theo Balden (1904–1995)
Location: Ossietzkystraße 12, "Mutter und Kind" (Mother and Child), Artist: Theo Balden (1904–1995), Date: 1974 (design); 1988 (cast), Installation: 1988, Material: bronze
Mother and Child is a late example of independent art in the GDR. The sculpure was created by the Bauhaus-trained Theo Balden (1904–1995) without socialist messaging or stylistic prescriptions. The bronze bodies of the mother and child are fused, and at first glance it is di cult to tell them apart. To understand what is going in, you have to look at the sculpture from all sides. From the front, you can clearly see two heads, one on top of the other. The lower, larger head belongs to the mother. The upper, smaller head belongs the child. The mother’s head has two faces, one visible from the front, the other
visible from the right. The mother’s arms reach upward on the le as they support the child’s body. The child’s facial expression looks pensive, even serious. From behind the sculpture, you can clearly see the child’s small body resting on the mother’s shoulders. Lacking outward signs of femininity, the sculpture would seem to say little about the mother’s role apart from its title. But we know that motherhood was a recurring theme in Balden’s work and may be a product of his upbringing. He was born Otto Koehler in Brazil to German immigrant parents. When his father died, his mother returned to Germany with him and his siblings. In Mother with Child, a child is carried in the strong arms of a watchful mother, one whose two faces suggest that she is capable of providing double the attention.
Station 7: Carl von Ossietzky, Artist: Klaus Wolf Simon (*1948)
Location: Ossietzkystraße 24, "Carl von Ossietzky", Artist: Klaus Wolf Simon (*1948), Date: 1989, Material: bronze
The bronze sculpture was erected on the occasion of the 100th birthday of Carl von Ossietzky, the anti-fascist resistance fighter, author, and editor. The somewhat oversized sculpture portrays Ossietzky in a long, thick coat. His stooped posture gives the sculpture a slight forward incline. Compared with the roughly modeled body, the head is detailed and the face clearly shows Ossietzky’s delicate features. His expression is thoughtful, he seems to stare out into space. The surface of the sculpture is strongly structured throughout. The bronze cast is based on a clay model by Klaus Wolf Simon, who studied at the Academy of Arts in Berlin from 1983 to 1986.
On the rear of the base is a quote from Ossietzky testifying to his modesty: „There is nothing more to be said about me”. A er the Reichstag re, in 1933, the Gestapo banned Die Weltbühne, a weekly magazine for politics and the arts for which Ossietzky served as editor. Soon a erward he was arrested and then imprisoned in the Sonnenburg concentration camp. He spent the last two years of his life in the Nordend Hospital in the Berlin suburb of Niederschönhausen, where he died in 1938 as a result of health problems incurred during his imprisonment. A er the Second World War, his widow, Maud von Ossietzky, took over the editorship of Die Weltbühne and later served as mayor of Pankow.
Station 8: Sitzender (Seated Person), Artist: Manfred Salow (*1943)
Location: Ossietzkystraße, "Sitzender" (Seated Person), Artist: Manfred Salow (*1943), Date: 1978, Installation: 1998 (current location), Material: bronze
In this sculpture, by Manfred Salow, a male sits in a natural posture while he looks up at the sky, head tilted to the side. One leg is bent in front of him, the other upright. He calmly supports himself with his le arm. The elbow of his right arm rests on his knee; the right hand lies between his shoulder and neck. His pose draws attention to his muscular upper body, genital area, and Adam‘s apple. The body is emphatically masculine yet vulnerable, unapproachable yet intimate: a man lost in thought. The face and head of the sculpture are weathered. The sculpture was placed in its current location in 1998. It was moved from its old spot – in front of the old department store on Breite Straße – to make way for the Rathaus shopping center. The wellconceived sculpture is reminiscent of classical style. Its pure formal language bears few of the hallmarks of socialist realism.
Manfred Salow admitted to spying on the actor Manfred Krug (1937–2016), who was his friend and neighbor in the 1970s. In return for his collaboration, the Stasi provided Salow with tools for sculpting.
Station 9: Aufbauhelferin (Reconstruction Worker), Artist: Gertrud Classen (1905–1974)
Location: Ossietzkystr., Ecke Am Schloßpark, Aufbauhelferin (Reconstruction Worker), Artist: Gertrud Classen (1905–1974), Date: 1952, Material: bronze, clinker
A woman wearing worker clothes holds three stacked bricks in her hands. She stands confidently on a brick base, in slight contrapposto, legs o set. The clear, minimalist language of the sculpture and the strikingly smooth surface of the bronze create a calm impression. Reconstruction Worker was erected on Ossietzkystraße in the early 1950s, when East Berlin was in the process of rebuilding. It is meant as a reminder of the massive destruction wrought by the Second World War and the optimistic atmosphere of reconstruction during the early days of the GDR. One of East Berlin’s first public artworks, it was created in full accordance with the tenets of socialist realism.
Gertrud Classen worked for the „Red Orchestra” (Die Rote Kapelle), led a resistance group of young artists at the United State Schools for Fine and Applied Art in Berlin, and participated in the production and distribution of anti-fascist lea ets. A er the Second World War, she joined the Socialist Unity Party of East Germany (SED). At the Academy of Arts of the GDR she studied with Gustav Seitz and was later a student of Fritz Cremer.
Ossietzkystraße leads directly to the gardens that surround Schönhausen Palace, a late Rococo-style building that served as the summer residence of the Prussian royal family.
Station 10: Drei Frauen (Three Women), Artist: Carin Kreuzberg (*1935)
Location: Elisabethweg, corner of Ossietzkystr., "Drei Frauen" (Three Women), Artist: Carin Kreuzberg (*1935), Date: 1979, Installation: 1993, Material: bronze
Three Women, consists of a group of female fi gures in bronze. The sculpture creates an interesting tension between closeness and distance. The half-nudes, which face each other, appear at once self-contained in their togetherness yet apart, imperturbably present yet absent. Their eyes seem to look nowhere; each figure dwells completely in itself, graceful and calm. The group and the individual
figures remain in some sense impenetrable. The sculpture recalls a profane version of the Three Graces, the goddesses of charm, beauty, and joy in Greek and Roman mythology, and who have been a traditional motif in art for centuries.
The small green space in which the sculpture is located was created in the 1950s, when the o cial residence of the East German president was in the nearby Schönhausen Palace. The bronze sculpture, which the artist designed in 1979, was not installed here until four years a er the fall of the Wall.
Carin Kreuzberg studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden from 1953 to 1955 under Walter Arnold and Hans Steger. She then studied with Heinrich Drake at the Weißensee School of Art. She has been working as a freelancer in Berlin since 1966.
Station 11: Julius Fučík Monument, Artist: Zdeněk Němeček (1931–1989)
Location: Bürgerpark Pankow, Heinrich-Mann-Str. 1 / Wilhelm-Kuhr-Str. 9, "Julius Fučík Monument", Artist: Zdeněk Němeček (1931–1989), Date: 1974, Material: concrete, bronze
The monument commemorates the Czechoslovak resistance fighter, journalist, and writer Julius Fučík (1903–1943). Fuík played a key role in the communist resistance movement until he was arrested by the Gestapo in Prague in 1942. Deported to Germany in 1943, he was sentenced to death a and murdered together with 185 other victims of the Nazi regime on the night of September 7, 1943 in Plötzensee Prison. The monument was designed by multiple various artists and conceived by the Czech architect Vladimír Pýcha. It consists of ve staggered concrete steles, each with a di erent height. Likewise, each side of the monument’s rectangular oor plan has a di erent design, so the impression of the monument changes with the viewer’s point of view. A bronze portrait of Fuík is on the front of the central stele. A few of the other steles (such as the one to the right of the portrait) are adorned with a vertical band of rectangular and round shapes in the concrete. The stele to the le of the bronze portrait bears a quote from Fuík: „People, I loved you. Be vigilant”. The words, inscribed in a plain font, appear in German, Russian and Czech. The quote is from Notes from the Gallows, which Fuík wrote while in custody and is one of the most important documents of anti-fascist resistance in Europe.
Station 12: Dichter und Mädchen (Poet and Girl), Artist: Sabine Teubner MBaye (*1953)
Location: Bürgerpark Pankow, "Dichter und Mädchen" (Poet and Girl), Artist: Sabine Teubner MBaye (*1953), Date: 1999, Material: bronze
The group of gures is accompanied by a strange tension. At rst glance, the relationship between the two figures is unclear. The girl, who is standing, appears motionless and static. Her face is only hinted at, and her facial expressions remain hidden. A few meters away is the poet, whose muscular body faces her, while his gaze seems to look downward. His physical presence is broken by his resting posture and pensive expression. Every new perspective creates a new impression of the poet’s body and the space that the sculpture occupies. This becomes particularly clear in relationship to the girl. Though each of the - gures dwells in its own space, certain viewer perspectives bring to light their intersection and interaction.
MBaye studied sculpture at the Weißensee School of Art with Werner Stötzer, among other teachers. She has had a studio in Pankow since 1979. Her wide-ranging output includes sculpture, painting, graphic art, performances, and installations.
Station 13: Große Vegetative Landschaft (Large Vegetative Landscape), Artist: Friedrich B. Henkel (*1936)
Location: Bürgerpark Pankow, Wilhelm-Kuhr-Straße, "Große Vegetative Landschaft" (Large Vegetative Landscape), Artist: Friedrich B. Henkel (*1936), Date: 1990/91, Installation: 1996, Material: bronze, clinker
The large bronze plate is a conglomerate of various, semi-geometric shapes. Large and small spherical, pyramid-like gures and jagged shapes cover the rectangular base, which increases in height toward the center. On one side of the plate there is a wheel with teeth or blades. The Large Vegetative Landscape, by Friedrich B. Henkel, is an abstract representation of the Bürgerpark. The geometric figures are abstract trees and bushes. The cog-like gure is a reference to the history of the park, which the publisher Hermann Killisch von Horn created in the 19th century on the grounds of a former mill. Henkel was commissioned with the sculpture before the fall of the Wall, but the piece was not placed
in its current position (near the music pavilion) until 1996.
The landscape plays a special role in the work of Henkel, a GDR artist of the „second generation”. Henkel’s travels to the southern Soviet Union began to shape his work in the early 1970s. The in uence applies in equal measure to the landscape reliefs, where the gurative and the landscape as an artistic gure are prominent. In addition to sculpture, Henkel has created an extensive collection of prints.