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“Heiduk” and Wholetrains – Munich’s history as a graffiti capital

By Tobias Krone

A train graffiti is sprayed on a wall in the Werksviertel in Munich. (Deutschlandradio / Tobias Krone)
Train graffiti in the Werksviertel at Ostbahnhof: Europe’s first Wholetrain was sprayed in Munich in the 80s. (Deutschlandradio / Tobias Krone)

Tags, Murals, Stencils. Before it was called “Graffiti”, a mysterious lettering haunted Munich: “Heiduk”. This and a few other reasons made the Bavarian metropolis one of the first street art strongholds in Europe.

It was 1970 – and graffiti could only be called the six letters to a limited extent. But the effect was similar: the whole of Munich was puzzled by a phenomenon that had come upon the city out of nowhere: Heiduk.

Six letters make the beginning

“Suddenly there was ‘Heiduk’ on all sorts of house walls. That was really big in the media and nobody knew what that was,” says Martin Arz. “Because at that time there was nothing on the walls, you didn’t write any slogans, no matter what. That came later, with the punks, at some point.”

Martin Arz is an artist, author, publisher – and connoisseur of Munich street art. The 58-year-old has published a city guide on the subject of street art – and researched the history of Munich graffiti. “It was then the big mystery in the media: Who is Heiduk? They concluded on some Yugoslav football clubs that have similar names,” he says, among other things.

“Heiduk was everywhere”

Martin Arz uncovered the origin of the phenomenon with his research. “A municipality in the slaughterhouse district – its landlord was called Heiduk by his last name. And they had trouble with the insane anger. And at the beginning, just to annoy him, they first wrote ‘Heiduk’ on a few walls in the slaughterhouse district.”

The whole thing suddenly took on a life of its own, says the artist. “Everywhere, in Munich-Schwabing, Berg am Laim, everywhere it said ‘Heiduk’, because people thought it was funny. They didn’t know what it was, but they wrote ‘Heiduk’ everywhere. And that was the first crazy graffiti wave that hit Munich, but after that there was peace again.”

A hand with a latex glove holds a spray can (picture alliance / dpa / Gregor Fischer)Graffiti – from vandalism to art form (picture alliance / dpa / Gregor Fischer)How “Graffiti” got its name in 1971 [Audio]
This summer, 50 years ago, the “New York Times” used the term “graffiti” for the first time. However, the US citizen considered the art form, which is already highly endowed today, to be vandalism in that – still modest – departure, reports Laf Überland.

It was to continue for another decade. But then a lively graffiti scene popped up in the Bavarian capital, which was also to shape the rest of Europe.

An art trend from New York

In the early 80s, the first young people got wind of the new art trend from New York – like a certain Mathias Köhler, known for decades under the pseudonym Loomit. Today a man with colorfully stained artist pants and gray ponytail.

“I didn’t grow up in Munich, but in Buchloe. This is in the Ostallgäu, a town of 10,000 inhabitants – it was still a bit smaller at the time. They have a large water tower at the entrance. Such a concrete structure, which is directly at the entrance, and I had then worked on it at night,” he says.

“That was actually two days later in the newspaper – and then suddenly in the discussion: Shouldn’t we make the whole tower a bit more colorful – and then I realized: Oha, there’s something going on with graffiti, you get attention. What you absolutely need today for all sorts of things was actually still possible back then with a few spray cans.”

Click here for the literature summer of Deutschlandfunk Kultur. (Photo: imago / fStopImages / Malte Müller)

Loomit then moved to Munich with his mother and watched the graffiti film “Wildstyle” in 1983. After the film, he says, he was literally “forgotten”. It was all about: “I want that too – and get out and paint, paint, paint.”

The first Wholetrain Europe

Together with six other sprayers, Loomit provided a European premiere one night in 1985 at the idyllic S-Bahn terminus in Geltendorf.

“It was bitterly cold. It was one of those record winters, it was already March, April, but it was certainly 10, 15 degrees minus – that’s how it felt,” Loomi recalls, but no one didn’t bother the sprayers. “Because we were so intoxicated to paint the thing. Pain, hunger and thirst – that was not the case. We were just on adrenaline, just painting. And at the time they had no idea if anyone would notice.”

The press – and the railway police – noticed. Then gradually the burgeoning European graffiti scene. A Wholetrain: “A train that is completely painted from front to back, on the outside, is called a whole train,” explains Loomit.

“That was the absolute sensation at the time, because it was the very first European wholetrain, not just the first German one. Even in the USA, wholetrains were rare. That was still something special. The fact that the first European Wholetrain was driven in Munich, Geltendorf, of all places, was absolute madness,” recalls the sprayer.

The first graffiti special commission

The first fully sprayed S-Bahn was soon followed by the first German special commission graffiti at the railway police. The Wholetrain did not remain without consequences for Loomit – he had to do social hours.

“Since it wasn’t my first trial and I was a repeat offender, I think I had over 100, 120 hours of work.” He spent this mainly by renovating a youth café for the exchange of disabled and non-disabled young people.

Large-scale graffiti on a wall in the Werksviertel at the Ostbahnhof in Munich (Deutschlandradio / Tobias Krone)Large-scale graffiti in the Werksviertel: As a renowned street artist, Loomit curates Munich’s last free walls. (Deutschlandradio / Tobias Krone)

“Actually, it should be white, which of course it wasn’t in the end,” says Loomit. “We also had to pay a lot of money. It was also about the fact that Deutsche Bahn wanted to have its civil damage back.”

Successful with street art to this day

But due to his increasing popularity, Loomit soon sprayed the walls of private individuals, in 1993 also the bathroom of Lord Mayor Christian Ude. And he earned quite a little money with it.

To this day, Loomit works as a recognized street artist and curates Munich’s last free walls, such as here in the Werksviertel, the former factory halls of Zündapp and Pfanni, where the Viennese street art artist Chinagirl Tile is currently organizing a festival for female sprayers.

“Munich was ahead of Berlin with painting, among other things because of Loomit. That is, they are actually one of the places of origin where it all began. Hardly anyone knows that these days, but that’s nice.” This was due to “a few madmen”, she believes.

The madmen were undoubtedly important, madmen like Ray, who abseiled from a railway bridge in 1985 to spray a cartoon character on the pillar almost 30 meters above the Isar. Other, very bourgeois graffiti fans ensured the rapid promotion of street art.

Munich, a city of aesthetics

Peter Kreuzer, for example, a professor of folklore. Early on, he created a photo collection for the city archive and brought the scene together in the first place. Loomit still has a thesis as to why everything developed here early.

Munich is particularly fond of art. “People always look like this: clean cities. But if you live in a city with as many art galleries as we have – Haus der Kunst – really things that value aesthetics, even a cityscape that values aesthetics: that also shapes as a painter,” he says.

“We had very high standards. If we wanted to put a thing on the wall, we had to measure ourselves. Classicism is around us. Then it was clear from the outset: But dog san’s already, as the Bavarian says. It may be damage to property, but it looks good. They get away with it. The performance you bring is already great.”

Concrete gold instead of colorful walls

In addition, legal painting areas such as the abandoned Riem Airport or the old armored halls of the US Army, which allowed murals with a height of 8 by 20 meters – and Graff worldwideiti greats lured to Munich. Today there are only a few such places.

The Werksviertel am Ostbahnhof markets its creative flair professionally with the aura of great graffiti, in the south of Munich at the slaughterhouse there is a Wall of Fame. Otherwise, the last industrial wastelands are being turned into concrete gold, sighs street art expert Martin Arz.

“As a result, Munich has slowly but steadily slipped off the map of interesting graffiti cities, which I regret very much. If I walk the pedestrian zone or the city center of Munich – sure, there are few firewalls, there are few smooth walls, but they do exist.” Martin Arz doesn’t find it creative that they simply remained white or painted in “funny Nymphenburg yellow”.

Arjun Sethi
Passionate guitarist, gamer and writer. Lives for the perfect review, and scrapes texts until they are razor-sharp.


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