I first met Christine MacLean in 1990, when I was invited as an artist to join in painting segments of a 1.3 Km stretch of the Berlin Wall. It was named The East Side Gallery and it was geographically in the former GDR. It has had a chequered history but today it attracts 4 million visitors annually.
Christine was one of the co-founders but she was the only one who remained of the original group. She believed passionately in the importance of the ESG as a Monument to Joy and she carried on coordinating the project and looking after the 118 artists who were involved.
She allocated the segments, organised paints and ladders and made her car available to store equipment. She also worked manually herself, enlisting her friends to help scrape off the old posters from the Wall and she even gave her flat as overnight accommodation for visiting artists.
Christine had previously been working at the British Embassy in East Berlin and spoke fluent German. I’d come to Berlin for postgraduate art study and my Deutsch was fluently bad, so it was wonderful to meet a fellow Scot, we both spoke fast in Scottish-accented English, both of us were direct and to the point. We became good friends and we were totally united in the survival and continuance of the East Side Gallery.
Those early days were tumultuous, euphoric, but over the years, interest in the ESG waxed and waned. Despite massive protests in 2013 some painted segments were even torn out to give access for a high rise block of flats behind the East Side Gallery.
In 2019 it was a welcome relief when the Berliner Mauer Stiftung took over the care of the East Side Gallery, and Christine was a valuable dialogue partner for them. Their commitment is that there should be no more of the East Side Gallery destroyed for inappropriate private interests and this was exactly in Christine’s interest, the East Side Gallery was her life.
in 2020, Christine MacLean published her personal memories of the creation of the East Side Gallery in the book “Berlin East Side Gallery. Two Berlins. One Wall“.
Her death is a tragic loss to the East Side Gallery and a great personal loss and sadness for me.
Statement by Christine Maclean before the hearing on the future of the East Side Gallery on 13 October 2017 in Berlin Friedrichshain: