Thierry Noir: An Introduction

Thierry Noir: An Introduction

In 1984, a young French man named Thierry Noir began spontaneously began painting the Berlin Wall. At the time, the Wall was a symbol of division and oppression and was regarded with fear in both West and East Berlin.

By employing bright colours and creating whimsical designs Noir sought to undermine the Wall and in the process bring hope and to people on both sides.

Since his early origins in the 1980s Noir’s art is now recognised regarded as iconic through its inclusion in important museum and private collections. His personal story is also an inspiration to anyone who believes in freedom of expression and the power of creativity in overcoming adversity.

Who is Thierry Noir?

Thierry Noir is a French artist, born in 1958 in Lyon, France. Noir moved to Berlin in 1982 inspired by the New Wave scene of the time in city and musicians such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop. On arriving in Berlin, Noir settled in a squat close to the Berlin Wall and through the window of his room could see into East Berlin.

The daily melancholy of living so close to the Berlin Wall inspired Noir to act. Between 1984 and 1989 day and night he painted large stretches of the Berlin Wall without permission in the process creating the “longest open-air gallery in the world”. Noir is considered the first artist to paint the Wall in the process catalysing an artistic movement around the Wall.

Noir is also credited with pioneering the street art movement in Europe. He is often compared to the American pop artist Keith Haring who also employed graphic line work and bold colours and like Noir began his career creating illicit artworks in public.

Thierry Noir and Keith Haring at the Berlin Wall

Noir’s work on the Berlin Wall is best characterised by his large heads painted across the entire face of the Berlin Wall in profile with a singular large eye and exaggerated features. At the time his actions on the Wall were described as transgressive and provocative but Noir’s art was also said to represent hope and freedom following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

What are some of Noir’s most famous public artworks?

Since his pioneering work on the Berlin Wall in the 1980s Noir has gone on to create murals around the world in cities such as London and Los Angeles.

Freedom Boulevard, Los Angeles (2019)

In 2013 Noir collaborated with London artist STIK and created a series of murals in Shoreditch, London. Noir’s work in London culminated in 2017 when Noir created the then tallest mural in the UK in West London. Noir also painted the largest mural in Los Angeles that same year in 2017.

Thierry Noir and Stik paint two sections of the Berlin Wall to mark the 30th anniversary of its fall (2019)

In 2021, Noir began to experiment with digital media in the pubic realm by creating animations of his ‘GOLD’ series for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and broadcasting these on large screens in cities worldwide including Los Angeles, New York, London, Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai.

'I Look At A Cloud' (2020)

Regardless of medium, Noir’s distinctive style remains at once recognisable. He is an artist who redefines public spaces through his bold use of colour and line. There can be no denying that Noir’s artwork has left a lasting impression on the world. Thanks to his unique vision and tireless dedication, Thierry Noir is one of this generation’s most influential French artists.

Sister Cities Commemorative Mural, Los Angeles (2014)

We have a selection of Noir artworks available now for our collectors.