“Why shouldn’t different artists come along now and paint on it? Why was it so strictly selected and so uncool, really, as to not carry on with it and reassign it?”
Lutz Pottien was born in East Berlin in 1964. He was able to move to West Berlin by entering a marriage on paper. Today he lives in Berlin where he works as an architect. In 1990 he produced the initially untitled, spontaneous painting of the heads of smokers and a bulldog – clichéd Arabian-style motifs taken from cigarette advertisements of the early 20th century – in the East Side Gallery.
Lutz Pottien in the interview
Pottien’s painting shows the heads of three men and a bulldog. Each man is wearing a fez, the once common style of headwear in the Balkans and Middle East. The men and the dog are all smoking. The Arabian-style motifs are taken from 1920s cigarette advertisements for the brands Enver Bey, Casanova, and Problem. The artist wanted to paint something unpolitical on the Wall and chose motifs that he personally liked. For this reason, in an interview with Stiftung Berliner Mauer in 2021, he named his painting “Pottiens persönliches Eigentum” (Pottien’s personal property).
Pottien entered a marriage on paper to evade military service in the GDR by leaving the country. In summer 1989 he moved to West Berlin, where he studied architecture. He read about the plans for the East Side Gallery in the press. Because he disagreed with the pre-selection of motifs to be painted on the East side of the Wall, in 1990 he decided to spontaneously paint a picture with his own paints, without permission, in the East Side Gallery.