So it turns out that Madrid is not the only European capital with the bear in the coat of arms, Berlin and Bern have a bear as well. We’ll overlook how the bear got on the coat of arms for Bern and expect everyone to be beary friendly!
We have found plenty of evidence that Berlin is a bear city and beary friendly 🙂
Buddy Bears are a series of painted, life-size fibreglass bear sculptures originally developed in Berlin, Germany. The first Buddy Bear was created by the German businesspeople Klaus and Eva Herlitz, in cooperation with the sculptor Roman Strobl in 2001. Artists painted approximately 350 bears to appear in the public domain, as decorative elements in the streets of Berlin. Four different bear designs (one standing on all four paws, one standing on two legs, one standing on its head and one in a sitting position) took part in this activity in the city centre of Berlin.
The bears were on display between June and November 2002, in a circle around the Brandenburg Gate. Around 1.5 million people visited this first exhibition. After the exhibition, the bears were moved to new locations, including their respective countries embassies in Berlin, or back to the country that they were based on. Some of the bears were auctioned off to raise money for UNICEF. Nowadays, these Berlin Buddy Bears are exclusively presented on private premises, in front of hotels and embassies as well as in the foyers of various office buildings. There better be a map of all these locations!
After the circle of “United Buddy Bears” had been such an overwhelming success in 2002, a new circle was created in 2003. The idea was to send the circle on a global tour with a message of peace, international understanding and tolerance among the nations, cultures and religions of this world.
The United Buddy Bears are an international art exhibition with more than 140 two metre tall fibreglass bears. Under the motto: We have to get to know each other better, it makes us understand one another better, trust each other more, and live together more peacefully more than 140 countries acknowledged by the United Nations are represented, promoting tolerance, international understanding and the great concept of different nations and cultures living in peace and harmony. The bears stand hand in hand in a peaceful circle (The Art of Tolerance).
One important prerequisite for this international unifying project is to choose artists from the individual countries — for the circle to reflect the diversity of the cultures of one world. The observer learns about the culture, the history, the people and the landscape of the individual countries — large or small. Hence the United Buddy Bears circle has become a platform for even the smallest and poorest countries which frequently remain unnoticed. Suddenly, they are equal to larger and often rich nations.
On their global tour, the “United Buddy Bears” promote peace, love, tolerance and international understanding. The circle changes every time it reaches a new city. This is not only due to the local conditions, but also to their constantly changing order, as the bears are always set up in alphabetic order, following the local language of the host country. This always leads to new and sometimes politically very interesting proximities.
In every exhibition city, the United Buddy Bears exhibitions are supported by the government, the foreign ministries, the mayors and the UNICEF organisations. Heads of state – for example the Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, the German Federal President, Horst Köhler and First Lady of Egypt, Suzanne Mubarak as well as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors such as Sir Peter Ustinov, Jackie Chan, Christiane Hörbiger, Mia Farrow, Iris Berben and Ken Done have opened these exhibitions all over the world.
In 2006, the United Buddy Bears were in Sydney. And we had no idea!
Next year, the Buddy Bears are off to Havana. We’ll have to see where we can catch up with them after that.