In order to keep the rising tension between capitalism and communism equal during the Cold War, the Allied forces constructed West Berlin as the epitome of capitalist advancement and a stark contrast to countries in the Eastern Block. Isolated in the middle of East Germany, massive amounts of supplies were needed to keep the city vibrant with culture. A massive financial and human effort formed to provide an isolated city with new fashion, enough food and frequent transport links; the so-called Berliner Luftbrücke (Berlin Airlift). Bernar Venet’s sculpture immortalises this effort.
A seemingly solely artistic piece of work, but in reality shows a long standing political link between two neighbouring countries. The Arc de 124.5° was commissioned by the French government as a gift to Berlin on the city’s 750th anniversary, which fell in 1987, towards the end of the Berlin Wall being in effect. The reason for an arc being chosen is to represent the struggles the city had prevailed through at the time, as well as the arc of the flights used to provide for the city.
What is now referred to as the Berlin Airlift was the only way for the West side of the city to survive through the various East German blockades and notorious Berlin Wall, patrolled by the border guard of East Germany. The arc of the monument commemorates the prevailing forces of the West Berliners and the Allied forces protecting and supplying for the isolated half of the capital.
The sculpture stands towards the heart of what once was West Berlin, near the famous Kaufhaus Des Westens (KaDeWe), which was one of the many department stores that sold fashion and goods only found in West Berlin to bring exclusivity to the city. Peering into the area the sculpture not only brings with it curiosity but also a majestic feeling following the events the city has seen.
The mysteriousness of Bernar Venet’s piece brings curiosity in why it even exists, prompting those to research, learn and eventually feel proud of the efforts and eventual results of the Berlin Airlift. Although the sculpture is slowly being shrouded out by the surrounding trees and developing urban landscape, this only adds to the mystery of it and the lack of visual explanation.