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Art icon Tacheles shrinks after €1-million payout
Photo: DPA

Art icon Tacheles shrinks after €1-million payout

Published: 05 Apr 2011 17:29 GMT+02:00
Updated: 05 Apr 2011 17:29 GMT+02:00

The hip artists' squat Tacheles is slimming down. The Berlin icon will be a quieter and more modest affair after half the occupants announced on Tuesday they had accepted €1 million to leave.

The bars, restaurants and outdoor artists’ studios that hundreds of thousands of visitors have become used to seeing in recent years have already closed. Gruppe Tacheles, representing about 80 occupants of the disputed site, say they have accepted a €1 million payment to leave. They have handed over their keys and left the premises.

A further 80 loosely grouped artists – who are separate from Gruppe Tacheles and indeed have an antagonistic relationship with them – are staying.

“We’re going on with our programme as usual,” said Tacheles spokeswoman Linda Cerna. “We have a great premier tomorrow (Wednesday) with the Rosie Kay Dance Company from Britain and an exhibition opening on Friday.”

However, it will be a quite different-looking Tacheles to the sprawling, bustling complex – complete with indoor and outdoor bars, restaurants, a cinema and a large, outdoor marquee housing artists’ workshops – that it has become in recent years. Those are all being removed after the Gruppe Tacheles agreed to leave.

The graffiti-smothered squat has for years been the subject of a byzantine saga pitting developers and a major bank against the artists and different artist factions against one another. Occupied soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the former Jewish department store in Berlin’s Mitte district became the capital’s best-known bohemian hang-out and a major tourist attraction. The city of Berlin strongly supports the project, though it has stopped short of offering to buy the site and maintain it as a cultural venue.

Eventually, as the forces of gentrification changed the area, the artists in Tacheles have come under increasing pressure to get out. The effective owner of the site, HSH Nordbank, has been trying to evict the artists and sell the property. A planned auction for the site on Monday was postponed at the last minute.

Complicating matters is the fact that nobody can or will say where the €1 million payment has come from. HSH Nordbank spokeswoman Gesine Dähn said the bank was not behind the payment and did not know who – if anyone – had made it. Gruppe Tacheles spokesman Tim Africa said the money had come anonymously via Berlin lawyers Schultz und Seldeneck.

Africa defended the group’s decision to take the money in return for leaving the premises despite just a week ago vowing to fight on.

“The time is over and we’re really way past deadline. That was the overwhelming feeling in the group,” he said.

They had accepted the payout because they could no longer continue the legal fight to stay, he said. The money would be used for “a new cultural project” once various costs including legal expenses had been settled. However, he refused to say which individuals were actually receiving the payout and added that the group’s leading members, including co-founder Ludwig Eben, operator of the now-closed Zapata Café, would not comment on their decision.

Tacheles spokeswoman Cerna said the remaining artists were not surprised that Gruppe Tacheles had accepted the payout.

“I don’t think any of the artists are sad they’re leaving,” she said.

Tony Sykes, who manages the Dutch artist Tim Roeloffs – perhaps Tacheles’ most prominent son – said the remaining artists planned to stay and keep Tacheles going as a cultural icon.

“We are going to carry on. Tim Roeloffs is going to carry on and we wouldn’t sell off 20 years of cult-status legacy,” he said.

David Wroe (david.wroe@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

19:29 April 5, 2011 by dcgi
So about €12,500 each?
19:51 April 5, 2011 by derExDeutsche
I was wondering where all those Euros for Hamburgers at the Hard Rock Cafe came from.
22:17 April 5, 2011 by ado1000
Hey, here is an idea. Why don't we take what is unique about Berlin and replace it with a bank or shopping mall?? Good thinking!
09:44 April 6, 2011 by DoubleDTown
Hey, here is another idea: 1991 is over.
11:05 April 7, 2011 by Carmelb
Sad..sad..sad...without Tacheles Mitte takes another step to becoming ..well..just another bland mid-European city centre full of standardised bistros and chain stores ...
14:33 April 8, 2011 by LecteurX
Why would they care, those "investors"? They're just after money and in Berlin they see opportunities that are so rare in other capitals. They couldn't care less about the damage they're doing, as there will always be idiots to pay for whatever ridiculous property developments that will emerge instead of Tacheles, C/O and others, people who will be willing to pay overpriced hotel rooms to enjoy "the flair" of Berlin Mitte, of which there is not much left, and which is under constant pressure from the real estate landgrab.

Maybe some day Berlin will be uninteresting, boring and standardised like other European capital. There will just be the sh!tty climate, perpetual grey skies over a gigantic Potsdamer Platz left, without the countless landmarks of Paris or Rome and architectural beauty, without the warm weather of Barcelona, without the economic and cultural prominence of London... then the tourists will stop coming because there will be nothing left and Berlin will fade back into irrelevance. Then all the "investors" will go belly-up with they cr*ppy luxury hotels.
13:13 April 13, 2011 by codegremlin
Are we saying here that all Berlin has to offer to the world is a graffiti filled ruin, frequented by punks with angry dogs, that smells like urine and has dried vomit spread on the pavement in front of it (or at least that was my experience when I last visited it in 2005 don't know if it looks any different now)?

I really think that even a shopping mall would be preferable to the current miserable condition, the site was a department store originally after all and it would be a chance to restore the facade of the building to it's former glory. And Berlin is a unique, ever evolving city, so don't worry about it losing its character.
14:03 April 14, 2011 by Angry Ami
Too bad, was a cool place, especially liked cafe Zapata, great to go see gigs in summer then hang out in the back yard, what I don't understand is why the artists didn't get together and pool their resources, there must be a wealthy creative type in the city who would have helped, actually somebody did buy most of the folks out, but to me that's weird, a buy out but no support, and yeah it can't be stopped, Berlin will be gentrified.
19:20 April 14, 2011 by efnisien
Shame on Gruppe Tacheles for taking this money! Tacheles represents all that is good about modern Berlin, with its thriving alternative arts scene and great nightlife. Tacheles is on of the main tourist attractions in the area yet retains a sense of authenticity. One can't help but think that a new, rather staid, version of Berlin will emerge from the sad demise of Tacheles and other artistic residences.

In many cities around the world we find governments attempting to 'create' -often by means of large-scale investment - the kind of artistic hub that already exists in Tacheles. It will be a devastating loss to the city for a largely self-sustaining and organic expression of creativity to be demolished in the name of 'progress'.
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