Thierry Noir

French artist Thierry Noir was born in Lyon, France in 1958. He moved to West Berlin in 1982, at first intending to become a musician. After touring as a multi-instrumentalist with the German group Sprung Aus Den Wolken ("Jump from the Clouds"), Noir began painting the Berlin Wall with another French artist, Christophe-Emmanuel Bouchet, in 1984. Making use of paint left at construction sites, Noir responded to the melancholy, claustrophobic pressure exerted by the Wall on those living nearby with vibrant, playful murals that were quickly rendered through a simple recipe of "two ideas, three colors" since East German soldiers were always patroling in the vicinity.

Prior to this time, the Berlin Wall had been covered only with anti-American, racist, or comic slogans. No one had dared to paint large images on the forbidding Wall. Noir and Bouchet broke this taboo, even among those in the artistic community, because they wanted to make the Wall appear obscene and absurd, to help hasten its demise as a literal and figurative barrier to freedom. Residents were initially suspicious of these murals, but they became fond of them over time. Once local artists like Kiddy Citny and international artists like Richard Hambleton and Keith Haring joined the cause, Noir's work was lauded. In the five years leading up to the toppling of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Noir painted murals on about six kilometers total. Subsequently, Noir was commissioned to paint murals at the East Side Gallery, a 1,316-meter remnant of the Wall in the former East Berlin.

In 1990, thirty-three sections of the Berlin Wall with Noir murals were auctioned at the Hotel Metropole in Monte Carlo, which led to his iconic work spreading globally through museums and private collections. Irish rock band U2 hired Noir to paint six East German Trabant cars for the 1992 Zoo TV tour and images of them were incorporated into album art. For the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 2009, Noir painted ten original segments of the Wall in Los Angeles, the sister city to Berlin, with fellow artists Shepard Fairey, Retna, and Kent Twitchell; these works were then permanently exhibited near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In 2013, Noir painted various murals in London, and two years later held a retrospective exhibition there. Since 2014, Noir's art has been projected onto various Berlin landmarks in the annual Festival of Lights. Noir created his three largest public compositions ever in 2017 in London, Los Angeles, and Sydney.

One of the most famous, influential, and accomplished street artists, works by Thierry Noir are now held in private and public collections worldwide. In addition to his murals at the East Side Gallery, the Allied Museum in Berlin has a significant range of examples. Other institutions and landmarks featuring Noir works include: the Migration Museum in London; the Newseum in Washington, DC; Battery Park in New York City; and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Noir's painted Berlin Wall segments are now also part of the urban fabric of cities in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

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