In the early hours of July 22nd, Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke climbed the twin 84-metre towers and hoisted the hand-stitched stars and stripes in what they said was a tribute to the bridge's German-born designer and a celebration of "the beauty of public space”.
They were taken aback by the ensuing stir, including an investigation by US authorities and some red faces at the municipal police department.
“From our Berlin background, we were a little surprised that it got the reaction it did. We really didn’t intend to embarrass the police,” Leinkauf, 37, told the New York Times. “This was not an anti-American statement,” added Wermke, 35.
A succession of people claimed to have been behind the flag switch, but the artists have produced convincing video footage to prove that they were the authors.
The Brooklyn Bridge was designed by John Roebling, who was born Johann Röbling in Prussia in 1806 and died in 1869 following an injury sustained while planning its location on July 22, the day the white flags appeared.
"We saw the bridge, which was designed by a German, trained in Berlin, who came to America because it was the place to fulfil his dreams, as the most beautiful expression of a great public space," Leinkauf said. "That beauty was what we were trying to capture."
The pair scaled the bridge between 3 and 5 am on July 22nd, carrying the three-by-six-metre white flags in backpacks. They climbed using cables that workers and the police use to reach the towers, and did not see security cameras as they worked. They removed the real US flags respectfully, and plan to return them, they said.
This was the latest in a series of high-altitude feats by the pair, who have climbed bridges around the world in recent years. In 2007 they even attached balloons to the Brooklyn Bridge in a stunt that went largely unnoticed. This is when they said they first got the idea to raise the flags.