Two weeks ago I was in Berlin to visit the big city who has become so attractive to many artists and art buyers, designers or just visitors. I don’t know if it’s your case, but I have 3 friends that left their cities to move to Berlin recently. I went there to find out, and tell you about the great Berlin.

Nicolas Godon visiting Berlin


It’s huge !

As you may know, Berlin is 50 km large for 3,5 millions inhabitants. Consequently, it has an OK car traffic, tons of person go with bikes, winters included, and it has a lot of parks. It is very well distributed by public transporting, and has a lot of “empty blocks” or not constructed area – which can be a bit disturbing when you’re from Paris and live in Barcelona, the kind of cities that can’t extend more and sees its building being topped by more floors, and new towers coming out of the ground every night.

It has great diversity

The first thing you’ll find refreshing about Berlin, it’s its diversity: Architecture, people, culture, food, music, bars. You’ll find everything, and you can tell that everyone respects one other space. Berliners seemed to me as kind and respectful, quiet people. Very quiet. In many ways they recall me all the fantastic people from Sweden or Norway I got to know in Barcelona over the years.

It’s the artist paradise…

Berlin, since it’s not crowded, has a lot of empty space to provide. Here, you can easily split what you spend in a western city of Europe between your flat rent and a 50m² workshop where you will be able to work in good condition. What you’ll more be charged for is actually the heating for both your flat and your workshop. Ok, Berlin has been built (and rebuilt) thinking about thermal insulation, but still, temperature go very low in the winter. Actually most of my local contact told me they take advantage of this particular season to… run away and go to more pleasant latitudes.

…or Nightmare

Yes, nightmare. Well, since it’s so attractive, artists from all over the world, especially Europe, come to enjoy the very lovely green friendly and huge Berlin. I’ve been told during my stay that the local art market is over saturated in Berlin right know, and the hardest task is to get your name out there. The second one is to get the most visibility for your work. The social medias come real handy, and hard working and lobbying with cultural local institutions is a must.



Berlin - photographs by Nicolas Godon

There are a lot of things to see in Berlin, I’ll stick to four main things:

Tempelhof’s airport

It hasn’t been used for 2 years and it will soon be transformed into… we don’t know yet! But it’s an almost mystical experience to ride your bicycle on those never ending airport runways in the center of the city. The Bread & Butter Berlin uses this location for its Fashion Trade. Greg Ross went there last July: see the pictures of the fair.

Tempelhof's Airport - Berlin - Photographes by Nicolas Godon


East Side Gallery

It’s the part of the wall that has been painted years past the 1989 re-unification of Berlin, and that has been re-visited since then by Berlin lovers, with great painting surrounding such topics as freedom, expression, revolution, or just society. A absolute must-see to get one a big part of Berlin is all about.

Berlin East Side Wall - photographs by Nicolas Godon


Check point Charly

Here you will see the most famous check point of all Berlin during the cold war, when Berlin (yes kids I’m talking to you) were split in two half: A Soviet administrated east-side, and a western shared administrated west-side. Near check point Charly you will find the great museum about this time were people was trying to cross the forbidden wall area. You have been told in schools, at college, but I can assure you that you have to go in this museum and see the incredible stories proving the absurdity of this situation, that last more than 40 years.

Check Point Charly Berlin - Photographs by Nicolas Godon


Bars !

Tons of bars, all kinds of bar, quiet, cool bars, loud bars, concert, books, café, lagers, Berlin has a real culture of the pub, the café, the club… the diversity is huge. In 5 days we did live concerts, tons of lounge café where people reads, then bars with hundred of type of beers and funny people talking and shouting, from all over Germany. Remember that during the winter, sun goes down around 3pm, and it’s night at 4:30pm !! You’d better find yourself a cosy place to have a drink, even if in Berlin people have dinner around 7pm, nights can be long…

Bar in Berlin - photographs by Nicolas Godon


In bars I had the pleasure to re-encounter with friends based in Berlin for some time now.

Alberto Ramirez, Spanish confirmed painter based in Berlin is one of them. He showed us around his workshop and flat in Berlin and took the time to answer to our questions.

photographs by Nicolas Godon - Alberto Ramirez in a bar in Berlin


Tell us about yourself
I’m 6′ 3″ and pretty slim… the rest is circumstantial.
How did you come to be an artist
It wasn’t really a decision I made one day. More something that have been cooking up in my head for some time. When I was younger I already painted and drew. Drawing has always been a form of expression like a hobby. When I finished studying I started working in the commercial industry. I realized almost instantly that it was not for me. I went to Mallorca, in the Balears Islands. I didn’t have a job back then, so I put all my time into painting, and never stopped from then.
What kind of painting do you do?
Nowadays I mainly paint large format portraits. I’m fascinated by the way a face can silently communicate.
photographs by Nicolas Godon - Alberto Ramirez at his workshop
Now you live in Berlin! Why this decision?
I spent the last seven years in Barcelona, Spain. I felt I had completed a full cycle there, and needed a fresh start because I was getting too comfortable back there. Berlin allows you to be several characters at once. It’s a city that had to restart from scratch 60 years ago, and you can tell by the way it’s so lively, always evolving.
What is you main source of inspiration?
My main inspiration is based on a 24 hour day immersion in painting. Any external stimulus can perfectly well become an idea to project onto the canvas. Creation is a combination of everything that surrounds me.
photographs by Nicolas Godon
Where do you sell your paintings?
Most of my paintings are sent to northern Europe. Holland, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden and Norway are the countries were my paintings are most popular.
How did you manage to make your space in the contemporary painting movement?
I try to adapt my painting to qualities, training and experience I have. Always pending of the market movement. It would be stupid painting something only because it’s what I believe in, if there’s no market to sell it later. I think one has to find a balance between one’s capacities and the demand in the art area. We live in a consumer-based society from which you can’t get away.
What is your ambition in this world?
Northern Europe is going very well for me. But more than countries, I would consider galleries the real factor. It’s important to get to galleries that have the good kind of clients. Art business is very small, compared to others.
Now that you have spent some time in Berlin, where do you go when you go out?
Now I live in Neukölln. So I stay in that area a lot , but Berlin is huge, full of interesting places. You can go swimming naked in a lake without having to go out of the city. Every neighborhood or district runs as an independent city.
photographs by Nicolas Godon
Which other parts of the world do you recommend, culture-wise, and for quality of life?
Well that’s not an easy one, because what is fun to someone may be boring to another. Or organisation may seem oppression. To me the perfect balance is to be six months on a northern city like Copenhagen, Berlin or Stockholm and during the winter get to Spain or wherever you won’t get your brain frozen by the weather.
What are you going to do right after this interview?
Firstly I’m going to have myself a BratWurst [a take away German sausage served with fries, ketchup and curry, NDLR] , since I’m literally starving, and then I’ll be heading to a friend’s workshop which is screening a movie by Monicelli. I think it’s “La ragazza with the gun”… Berlin’s calling, and you just don’t decline her invitation!

Alberto Ramirez Painter in Berlin - Photographs Nicolas Godon

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