At the beginning of the 1980s, Hamburg’s urban landscape gradually began to change. The instigators of this transformation were not urban planners, however, but graffiti artists: inspired by films like Wild Style and Beat Street, they moved around the city at night with spray cans and left behind colourful pictures, symbols and writing on walls, bridges and train carriages. Over the course of time, Hamburg – which had been a grey city dominated by postwar architecture – was transformed into a colourful and diverse metropolis which soon became one of the European epicentres of the graffiti and hip-hop scene, alongside Paris, Amsterdam and Munich.
The exhibition “A CITY BECOMES COLOURFUL. Hamburg Graffiti History 1980-1999”, which will run from 2 November 2022 until 31 July 2023 at the Hamburg Museum, tells the story of the origins of this youth subculture in Hamburg. The curators Oliver Nebel, Frank Petering, Mirko Reisser and Andreas Timm have assembled almost 500 exhibits, including photographs, texts, sketchbooks, spray cans, newspapers, magazines, vinyl records and accessories. In their research, they were able to build on their previous collaborative work: they are the editors of the lavishly illustrated book A City Becomes Colourful (published in 2021), from which the exhibition gets its name.
Like the book, the exhibition explores the historical period from the creation of a new city topography after the Second World War to the punk and protest culture of the 1980s and the emergence of a growing graffiti scene. The exhibition looks in detail at how North American hip-hop culture became established in Hamburg. Numerous photographs, including some large-format ones, show how Hamburg’s graffiti pioneers conquered the walls of the city. Film posters, concert tickets, articles from magazines like Stern and Bravo and various other documents illustrate the key role of the media, the importance of the music and breakdancing scene, and the relevance of youth clubs and the cultural sector to the development of the entire subculture.
Flyers, audio tapes and vinyl records: at first glance, some exhibits may look like mundane everyday objects from a bygone era. In the context of the story told by the exhibition, however, it soon becomes clear that almost every little snippet that had anything to do with hip-hop and graffiti was fiercely treasured at the time. In this pre-internet era, information about the subculture was in short supply, and belonging to the scene was like being a member of a secret society. The exhibition features equipment used by graffiti writers, such as spray cans, marker pens, square spanners and bolt cutters, but also accessories typical of the scene, like name belts, sneakers, baseball jackets with “backpieces”, and legendary records, to give visitors a profound insight into the beginnings of hip-hop culture in Hamburg. Alongside graffiti writing, it also looks at MCing, DJing and breakdancing.
The highlights of the exhibition include the historic S-Bahn seats which museum visitors are allowed to sit on – just like a graffiti writer in the 1980s. Above the entrance to the exhibition’s music section there is a large sign saying “Powerhouse”. This installation is the original sign that once hung above the entrance to a legendary hip-hop club in St. Pauli. Another highlight is the faithfully reconstructed room of a fictional Hamburg teenager who became a graffitist in the 1980s. The biographical transition from childhood to adolescence is expressed by numerous details in the room: beside the collection of empty cola cans which decorated many young people’s bedrooms at the time, there are also colourful Sparvar spray cans.
Exhibition duration: 2 November 2022 – 31 July 2023
Monday 10 am – 5 pm.
Closed on Tuesdays.
Wednesday 10 am – 5 pm.
Thursday 10 am – 9 pm.
Friday 10am – 5pm.
Saturday to Sunday 10am – 6pm.
Free curator tours every Thursday, 6 – 7 pm.
Free museum tours every Sunday, 3.30 – 4.30 pm.
Adults 5 €.
The multimedia smartphone app “OUR CITY BECOMES COLOURFUL” has been developed to accompany the exhibition. It enables visitors to follow in the footsteps of the subculture as they explore the city. The interactive tool will guide visitors to locations in Hamburg that were important to the scene – like the Jungfernstieg corner, the graffitists’ meeting point on Königsstraße, and Altona high school, where the wall of the gym was once a famous graffiti gallery. With the help of an augmented reality app, at each of these historical sites, users can take a look into the past, and extend their museum visit into the space where graffiti is truly at home: the city.
The exhibition will have its own accompanying catalogue featuring numerous illustrations as well as photos, objects and texts from the exhibition. It will be published when the exhibition opens and will be available to buy in the museum shop and at bookshops.
Paperback, 144 pages, 20 x 26 cm, 19,80 Euro
Language: Deutsch und Englisch
Foreword: Prof. Bettina Probst
Editor: Oliver Nebel, Frank Petering, Mirko Reisser, Andreas Timm
Co-Editor: Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg
Publisher: Double-H Publishing
All Infos at Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg:
A comprehensive programme is planned to accompany the exhibition. It will run until the exhibition ends on 31 July 2023. The accompanying programme will feature discussion sessions and talks on various subjects, curator tours on Thursdays, and regular photography and graffiti workshops.
Unlock Book Fair
Graffiti Book and Magazine Fair.
Saturday & Sunday, June 3 & 4, 2023.
Unlock Book Fair is the regular meeting of the international graffiti and street art publishing scene, which has already taken place in Barcelona (2016), Berlin (2017), Amsterdam (2018) and Cologne (2019).
The founder and director is Javier Abarca from Spain.
With support from the wissensART Foundation and the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) – “Understanding Written Artefacts” – at the University of Hamburg.
The TAG Conference
Name Writing in Public Space.
Thursday – Saturday, 29 June. – July 1, 2023.
A conference about tagging, in history and today. The TAG Conference is an international gathering where academics and non-academics (in English and German) will talk about both current tagging and its historical antecedents.
People from all eras have felt the urge to symbolize their existence in a particular place and time by leaving a personal mark for others to follow.
In cooperation with the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) – “Understanding Written Artefacts”.
With the support of the wissensART foundation.
Venues are the Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte and the CSMC at Warburgstraße 26, Hamburg.
Graffiti- and Street-Art Workshops
These workshops allow children, young people and the young at heart to try out and learn writing under experienced guidance: Oliver Nebel aka Davis One is a Hamburg graffiti veteran and well known as a workshop leader. He guides young people in schools, youth centers, the Hip-Hop Academy or the Stamp Festival, as well as adults in the context of incentives in dealing with the can.
What does your own name look like as graffiti? What are cans, a style or what do you need caps for? Professional sprayer Davis One shows how easy it is to make graffiti out of letters, create designs and implement them with a spray can.
Free, with registration at email@example.com.
With the support of the wissensART foundation.
Every Sun, 3:30 – 4:30 pm,
The curators, deeply rooted in the scene, provide a particularly authentic approach to the exhibition and guide you through an exciting phase of Hamburg’s urban development from their specific point of view.
Every Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. (free of charge).
In german language.
Offers for groups
For schools as well as for adult groups we offer in-depth insights and space for questions and discussions in guided tours through the exhibition, museum talks and combinations of guided tours followed by a city walk.
A city becomes colorful.
From the hobby of individuals to part of the city culture
Museum talk, 90 minutes.
How colorful is the city?
From the exhibition to the city
Exhibition visit followed by a city walk, 120 minutes (St. Pauli) or 180 minutes (St. Pauli and Hafenstraße).
Further information and booking
Guided tours for groups, school classes, students, tour groups or in German sign language.
Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Czech
Director and Chair
Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg
Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg
Prof. Bettina Probst
Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte
EINE STADT WIRD BUNT. Hamburg Graffiti History 1980 – 1999
Oliver Nebel, Frank Petering, Mirko Reisser and Andreas Timm
Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte
Head of Exhibition Department
Dr. Claudia Horbas
Curator Digital Media
Dr. Allan Gretzki
Petra Döring, Tim Ehrich, Patrick Mollien
Christopher Bainbridge, Marc Giesecke
Head of Restoration Department
Hanna Bothe, Leonie Engelmohr, Annette Morinaga, Anna Pidstrigach, Felix Schlichtegroll, Marie Vey
Thies Behrend, Tim Ehrich
Head of Education Department
Bettina Beermann, Jens Oestreicher
Head of Administration Department
PR and Marketing
Jan Lorenzen, Matthias Seeberg, Dr. Klaus Gier, Mareike Kuers, Friederike Schockenhoff, Dr. Anna Symanczyk, Wera Wecker
Communication Media Design
giraffentoast design gmbh
Media Stations and App
FLUUR – Digitalagentur
EINE STADT WIRD BUNT.
André Lützen, Bernd Euler, Thomas Henning, Alf Trojan, Olaf Pinske, Ulrich Gehner, Marily Stroux, Milan Horacek, Christine Plößer & Bettina Fickel, Jennifer Kauka, Gerald Chors and many more
Mathias Becker (Behnken Becker + Partner)
Fundraising and Lending
Carolin Ngo, Oliver Nebel, Frank Petering, Mirko Reisser und Andreas Timm
Editorial Staff App
Dennis Kraus, Oliver Karan
Phillip Mall (Kamera / Camera)
Johannes Maschmann (Ton und Schnitt / Sound and Editing)
Scanservice Olaf Kühle (Diadoktor)
Yorck-Percy Tietge, LL.M. IP
Niels Buschke (Santiago Design)
Michal Simonovsky (Druckkombinat)
We would like to thank
Altonaer Museum, Stadtteilarchiv Ottensen / Geschichtswerkstatt für Altona, Geschichtswerkstatt Barmbek, St. Pauli-Archiv e.V., Jennifer Kauka, Gerald Chors, Bülent Celebi, Flashmaster Ray, Sniefy, Fettes Brot / André Luth, Philipp Greifenberg, Mario Gross, Michael Kissling, Ron Lentz, Ulli Mehlich, Mark Schandor, Tedster, Requiem69, Tim Siemokat, Michael Timm, Kino, SaneOne, Christian Bartels, Sascha Beckmann, Jan Eißfeldt, DJ Mad, Mitra Kassai, Sven Ellerbrock, Stefan Fabinger, David Fascher, Sascha Friedrich, Peter Hildenbrand, Andy Hunter, Sali Landricina, Richie Löffler, Boris (Underground United), Rolf Schade, Felix Schlüter, Marcus Schmelzer, Johannes Timpe Schmid, Kai Simon, Tirana Sullivan, Artemio Boris Tensuan, Andre Ticoalu, Fedor Wildhardt, Mr. Angulus, Djawad Ahadi, Thorsten Balzke, Tim Carstens, Ren One, Boris Ekambi, Thomas Kielbasa, Martin Konkel, Martin Rothe, Werner Skolimowski, Folko Streese, Aiko Vogel, B-Base, Tony-Bronx Rosca, André Lützen, Bernd Euler, Thomas Henning, Alf Trojan, Olaf Pinske, Ulrich Gehner, Marily Stroux, Christine Plößer & Bettina Fickel, Milan Horacek, Alex Heimkind (OZM Hammerbrooklyn), DB Station&Service AG
For reasons of better readability, female and male forms of language are not used simultaneously and the generic masculine is used. All references to persons apply equally to all genders.
A CITY BECOMES COLOURFUL is supported by the wissensART Foundation and the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) at Hamburg University, Weischer Medien and Inapa.
OUR CITY BECOMES COLOURFUL was developed as part of “dive in. Programme for Digital Interactions”, a project run by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes [German Federal Cultural Foundation], supported by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM) in the programme NEUSTART KULTUR.