(Image: Boesner, Prenzlauer Berg)
by Sarah Kilcoyne
Cheap rent, an abundance of studio space, exceptional culture and a carefree spirit; these are just some of the things that have caused artists of all calibre to flock to Berlin over the past twenty years. Although we can debate the certainty of cheap rent and studio spaces these days, there is no doubting that Berlin is one of the culture capitals of the world.
There are apparently over 20,000 artists living and working in this city; and those are just the ones we know about. After four years studying Fine Art in Ireland, I remember arriving here five years ago, fresh off the boat, eager to explore, and being overwhelmed by the energy and openness of the Berlin art scene. Art here is a way of life.
However, such an abundant artistic scene as this cannot thrive without the practical stuff! With so many creative people operating in one place, the city also has to provide for their artistic needs. Back home in Ireland, I had to drive forty-five minutes from my home town to the ‘big smoke’, in order to buy art supplies. Luckily, in Berlin that is not the case! We have some excellent art supplies stores here in the city, both big and small, and here I will highlight some of my favourites:
Boesner was the first ever art store I visited in Berlin; and I was blown away. Paint paint paint. This store can be best described as an art ‘warehouse’; rows upon rows of oil paints, acrylic paints, spray paint, pencils, pens, pastels, brushes, you name it; for the largest selection in different brands and standards of paint, this is the place to go. Boesner even stock their own brand of materials, perfect for those on a tighter budget – noting that even though they’re easier on the wallet, they don’t skimp on quality.
Aside from the extensive selection of paint and painting supplies, Boesner also has a separate framing center, a clay modelling and pottery supplies section, a wonderful collection of paper and sketchbooks, and a broad selection of both ready-made canvases and raw canvas and stretchers. Not to mention the separate bookstore section near the register. You can get a cup of coffee, grab a seat and browse through their extensive collection of books, with everything ranging from the history of fine art to artist biographies to comic book collections.
The only downside to a store like Boesner, is that you’ll probably want to buy everything.
If you’re a painter like me, you will be very excited by this store.
There are three Boesner stores in Berlin; Prenzlauer Berg, Marienfelde and Charlottenburg.
One of the many things I love about Berlin is its diversity. So in total contrast to the sprawling Paintropolis that is Boesner, we have the cosy and accomplished Malstoff. Snuggled into a nook on Warschauer Straße, Malstoff can cater to your every artistic need; as an illustrator, you will find everything in terms of pens, brush pens, fineliners, pencils, charcoals, etc.; they also stock a wide selection of sketchbooks and paper, both professional and student standards. As a painter, you will find excellent service at Malstoff. This snug little store has a proficient selection of oil paints, acrylics, gouache, watercolour, brushes, palettes, and everything you need to build your own canvases from scratch, where the staff will even custom-cut your desired amount of canvas (as opposed to you having to buy an entire roll).
Probably the one thing that shines about Malstoff however, is the customer service. The staff in this store are some of the amicable and helpful I’ve ever met, and as a smaller art supplies shop, there is definitely a more community and family-like feel about the place. It’s not often in such a large city as Berlin, that you can enter an art store and the staff remember your name. They’re always happy to take the time to help you with your purchases, and give you advice. In Malstoff, you will always find what you need, and be greeted with a friendly smile.
Warschauer Str. 20, 10243 Berlin
So, let’s crank it up a notch. If you find yourself standing at the bustling Moritzplatz in Kreuzberg, that impressively stylish grey behemoth looming in front of you is Modulor. This store will cater to your every artistic need; and far beyond.
Aside from being able to order their products online, you will find only one Modulor store in Berlin. From the moment you enter the building, prepare to be dazzled by all that this place has to offer. Walking past the Modulor cafe and bookstore, you will be directed up the industrial-style steps to the ground floor section of the store. The store has three floors in total, comprising of not only your standard painting and drawing materials, but also textiles, foils, sheets and mesh, adhesives, furniture-making supplies, moulding, architectural model-making supplies, craft materials, sewing supplies, paper, cardboard and carton, canvas, tools, and especially interesting their model-making department, complete with 3D printing facilities.
And that’s not all; Modulor also has a t-shirt printing department, drilling, cutting and edge-forming department, and tool and equipment rental.
If you want to make something but have no idea what you want to make, and would like to have every possible tool and material at your disposal in order to make that decision – then Modulor is the place to go.
Prinzenstraße 85, 10969 Berlin
(Image: Overkill, Schlesisches Tor)
Last but not least, let’s look at something a little bit different. Centrally located in the artistic nerve center of Kreuzberg, you will find Overkill; a store where streetwear, sneakers and graffiti converge.
This is the go-to place in the Kreuzberg/Neukölln/Friedrichshain area for graffiti gear. If you feel like connecting with your inner-rebel, then get yourself down to Overkill and the guys there will hook you up. Upon entering the store, the first thing you notice are the walls lined floor-to-ceiling with spray cans of every colour and calibre. The second thing you notice is how oddly pleasurable it is to see this many coloured cans perfectly arranged according to colour gradient (if you peek around the corner you will notice the sneakers doing the exact same thing). Your inner perfectionist breathes a sigh of satisfaction.
The staff at Overkill are friendly, knowledgeable and helpful; having first approached the store four years ago as total rookie, they were able to guide me towards the right paint, the right caps and right markers suitable to my level of experience (which was zero). And every time I went back, I learned a little more. The store stocks a variety of brands, including Gorg, Molotov, Montana, MTN, and many more, and the staff will be happy to advise you which paint is going to suit your painting style. Besides the paint, you will find caps, markers, ink refills and graffiti magazines for sale.
Whether you’re a total beginner or an old pro, Overkill is the place for your tagging-bombing-graffiti-writing needs.
Köpenicker Straße 195A, 10997 Berlin