When I visited Berlin in 2009, I had a list of places I wanted to see and visit. One of those places was Tacheles, an art commune created decades ago by squatters in an old department store. As Berlin was reunited and rebuilt, it did so around Tacheles. But after years of fighting with the city and developers trying to take back the building and its prime real estate, in September of 2012 Tacheles finally closed. And boy it a shame.
Admittedly, Tacheles wasn’t only on my list of sites to see. When you’re at an Imbissstand, or sausage stand, and a very normal looking family with young children asks the owner for directions to the art house, while pointing at a travel guidebook, you know it’s more than an underground phenomenon.
But Tacheles was a real experience. It was dingy and it was dark. It wasn’t clean and it was atmospheric. You got exactly what you were coming for: art. You were just left to wander the floors of the building. The halls of the abandoned department building were covered in graffiti — as much from the overly eager visitors looking to leave their mark as from the artists themselves — and layers of old event fliers and dozens upon dozens of stickers. Visitors could just wander aimlessly and at their own pace, peeking in on artists at work in different rooms. You could find all types of artists working with a variety of mediums. Assuming there were any artists there; the days I visited I didn’t seem to find many artists upstairs.
So, R.I.P. Tacheles. Your location might be gone but your spirit certainly lives on in Berlin and beyond.