“Tacheles” is an old Jewish word meaning to disclose, to reveal or to speak clearly. The slang meaning of the word was bringing to an end.
The Art-Centre Tacheles is situated in a ruin in Berlin Mitte. Located in former East Berlin, the area was a Jewish quarter in the past and has now become a meeting point for people interested in arts and culture and for those who think they are.
The building itself was the entrance of the Friedrichstadt-Passage, a huge shopping mall built in 1907.
Within a relatively short time, the department store went bankrupt, and in 1928 the house was taken over by AEG, that founded the Haus der Technik, a display and marketing space for their products.
In Word War II parts of the building were used by the Nazi Party for administration and organization departments, and in the 5th floor French prisoners of war were detained.
Between 1943 and 1945 during the allied air raids the building was hit by bombs several times and got partly damaged, but not completely destroyed.
After 1948, one side of the building was still used for many different purposes, but the other side was slowly torn down, step-by-step, as the East Berlin government had no funds to restore it properly and for the distant future they had other plans for this area. So meanwhile, the house became just a storage for building material. The very last structure still standing was planned to be demolished in April 1990.
In Febuary 1990 the building was discovered and taken over by a group of young artists from all over the world and in the meantime it has been declared a historical architectural monument, regarding its special steel construction.
After the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989, a subculture which had its main focus on autonomy, spontaneity and improvisation arose in the former East Berlin areas Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain. Artists and individualists from all over the world used the plurality of available free spaces to put alternative lifestyles to the test.
Due to the individualistic character of the building and the mass of creative activities taking place, the Tacheles soon became famous. Right from the start, Tacheles was a centre of development and realization of individual ways of thinking, of the creative contamination of art and living as well as the testing of artistically and urban ideas. Many international artists staged performances or concerts here, exhibited paintings, sculptures and installations. This essential thought still exists today and the program was even extended further by staging and organizing performances, theatre, various workshops, poetry and special events.
During its existence, Tacheles in its function as an international arts centre has greatly influenced and formed the surrounding area in a positive as well as in a negative sense. By now the once creative surrounding area has mutated to a napless trend quarter.
Tacheles also attained recognition from the Berlin government and receives a varying amount of subsidy every year in order to help finance a part of its many projects. Other money is raised through commercial enterprises such as the cinema and the bar.
Because of its special architecture and the “ruin appearance” of the rearside and due to its 13 years of activities in the international arts field, “Kunsthaus Tacheles” became quite a celebrity on a national and international scale and is also listed in many travel guides of Berlin.
In the course of changes since the wall came down, Tacheles has been confronted with the difficult challenge of remaining true to its roots and ideals without becoming too sentimental about the old squatter times.