Brandenburg Gate Project


Thomas Baumgärtel

The Brandenburg Gate is the building in Germany which most strikingly reflects the last 200 years of the country's history. Two symbols, the Brandenburg Gate and the banana, are now to be combined in a single work.
A sculpture consisting of five parts is to be placed in the Brandenburg Gate in such a way as to give the impression of a single large banana stuck sideways in the Gate. During reunification the banana took on a special symbolic significance.
It is the fruit of integration, embodying prosperity and representing an image of paradise ­ a land of milk and honey in which all the foods of the world are available in abundance.
The Germans have always enjoyed a particularly close relationship with the banana ­ and not only since Konrad Adenauer. During the Nazi period "banana" became a swearword. Erhard Auer, the chairman of the Bavarian SPD party, was called a "banana fuehrer". After the War the yellow fruit came to symbolise a sense of freedom, especially in former East Germany. On a subversive level, therefore, the banana was the true symbol of German reunification. For many centuries it has been a symbol of life and love in many cultures.
Since 1986 I have been using the spray banana all over the world to mark the places I find of most interest in terms of art ­ from New York and Moscow to Zurich. The presence of the spray bananas at the entrances to galleries and museums has also turned the banana into a signpost pointing to high quality, free and independent art. The press has called it the "unofficial logo of the art scene". Working with "effects" or "consequences" has been the key element in my art. For 17 years now the banana has represented an artistic medium and investigative tool for the art market which I can use in a positive way to reveal particular aspects.
The Brandenburg Gate, trademark of Berlin and official symbol of German unity, was built from 1789 to 1791 by Carl Gotthard Langhans the Elder. Parades, march-pasts and demonstrations have been held ever since at the feet of the "Gate of Peace". The Brandenburg Gate and the four-horsed chariot were destroyed in the final days of the War in May 1945. Berlin was divided into four sectors and the Gate, which was now located in the Soviet sector, resumed its original function as a city gate - this time separating the British and Soviet sectors, East and West. On 14 August 1961 the Brandenburg gate was closed and the area around it was sealed off. It remained closed for almost 30 years, not opening again until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Traffic was allowed through from East to West from 7 March 1998, although this has now been stopped again.
Following a display in 1998 in front of the Cologne Cathedral, in 1999 at the main entrance of the Art Frankfurt arts fair and at the Frankfurt Messeturm, the display at the Brandenburg Gate is part of a series of presentations featuring large banana sculptures in public places.
Roland Specker and the Kunstverein Berlin are helping me with the realisation of the project in Berlin.
Depending on the amount of time needed to erect and take down the sculpture, the display is expected to last two to three weeks.
The summer of 2007 has been earmarked for the event.

Costs are expected to about total EURO 600,000.-

Cologne, June 2005