Pin It
A drugs investigation in Görlitzer Park, Berlinvia

Immortalising Berlin’s drug dealers with a monument

An American artist has gained political support to erect statues for ‘the last heroes’

“Movies and songs, hip-hop or narcocorridos, come and go – usually only known to fans. The park drug dealer, in our time – and especially in Berlin now! – is too important,” explains Berlin-based American artist Scott Holmquist to Dazed. He’s been garnering widespread support – even from politicians – to erect a monument in Berlin borough Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, in honour of African drug dealers.

Writing in a petition to the local government, Holmquist states: “Drug dealers perform a socially valuable service appreciated by many people – especially where they are easily reached, in the middle of the neighbourhood, and especially in parks.”

He directed his petition to members of the Pirate Party, a left wing group occupying four out of 51 seats in the district assembly. He argues against the vilification and demonisation of drug dealers around Berlin. He writes: “The erection of a monument would be a sensible and important recognition of this high-risk profession, and a potent reminder of the on-going struggle against the consequences of colonialism.”

“Their courage in the face of near universal loathing, or, at best, pity – among other contradictions they embody, make them, for me, the Last Hero. Monuments reach more kinds of people and last longer,” Holmquist tells Dazed.

“Over the next few months I’ll be talking to dealers in Berlin parks about my plan and release a design early next year. This work is part of a series of interventions I am planning concerning the park drug dealer, in conjunction with the Kreuzberg Museum’s 2017 '1% Free' exhibit.”

The petition has sparked debate from within the Pirate Party, as reported by Berliner Zeitung. Speaking to Artnet News, party spokesperson Felix Just said: “We welcome this proposal because it allows for the discussion about the conditions in Görlitzer Park to be expanded beyond a debate over criminality.”

He added: “The situation relates to many aspects of social life, such as flight and refuge, drug trafficking and smuggling, and dealing with asylum seekers. A monument doesn’t always need to be equated to a distinction, it can – and should – stimulate thought and debate.”

As Berliner Zeitung reports, Görlitzer Park, where the statue is being proposed for, is an area that deals with petty drug incidents frequently, and sporadic raids by local police. Up to 500 drug-related police investigations are ongoing.

Thomas, a user on the petition, commented: “Such a monument has nothing to do with art. Not even remotely! This is just an insult those who have lost their children (sic), etc., and friends by drugs. Drug dealers are criminals and belong to all extent of the law sentenced and deported without ifs and buts! If I get caught as a German in Turkey in drug Dealing, I will also not treated with kid gloves! By the way, drug dealers operate a market which it including myself, create. Is that ever considered?”

Holmquist will erect the monument one way or another in 2017, even if only temporarily. When asked what the memorial would mean to the people of Berlin, he said: “I look forward to knowing.”