It has been impossible to imagine the German capital without the Buddy Bears. The cheerful, colourful Berlin bears symbolise tolerance and international understanding and stand for cosmopolitanism in Berlin and Germany, and their message has an impact far beyond the city's borders.
The Buddy Bear is an individually painted life-size bear sculpture. But how did the idea for it come about?
Eva and Klaus Herlitz came up with the idea of the Buddy Bears in 2002. They were guided by the idea of bringing art to the streets of the metropolises. The starting point was Berlin. So it was clear from the start that it could only be the bear. As the heraldic animal of Berlin and with a new friendly aura, it is ideally suited as a symbol for the capital. In close collaboration with Eva Herlitz, the Austrian sculptor Roman Strobl designed the first Buddy Bear sculptures (the so-called "Dancer", the "Acrobat", and the "Mini-Friend"; later also the sitting Buddy Bear). Based on designs by two master's students of the University of the Arts, another sculpture, the "Friend", was created in parallel.
Based on designs by two master students at the Berlin University of the Arts, sculptor Roman Strobl made the first Buddy Bear sculptures. This was the birth hour of the same time the beginning of an international success story! Within a few weeks, more than 100 Buddy Bears designed by various artists brought color and joy to the streets and squares of the capital. The success was overwhelming. From the original temporarily planned art initiative, the Berlin Bears developed into a permanent part of the Berlin streetscape as well as an unofficial symbol of the city.
The Buddy Bear is not Berlin's only ambassador. But no one else is so capable of uniting Berlin's cheerfulness, diversity and
From Berlin, the bears soon conquered the world. Many companies and institutions at home and abroad, as well as private individuals, bought their own unique Buddy Bear sculptures. Again and again, there were art initiatives with Buddy Bears in public spaces in other cities. The Federal Foreign Office also supports the Buddy Bears and made them known as ambassadors of a cosmopolitan Germany.
In the meantime, there are bear sculptures in front of well over 100 foreign missions, whose special design expresses the friendly ties between Germany and the nation of the host country.
However, the Buddy Bears celebrate their greatest success with the International Exhibition of the United Buddy Bears, which has been touring around the world for the past 20 years under the title "The Art of Tolerance". These are now over 140 Buddy Bears, each representing a country of the United Nations and designed by an awarded artist of that country. They stand peacefully hand in hand, one next to each other - always the same sculpture and yet all fundamentally different. Art is their common language. In this way, they promote tolerance and international understanding and have been able to inspire more than 40 million people at 34 exhibitions on all continents.
- 146 Buddy Bears
- 34 exhibitions
- over 45 million visitors
- on 5 continents
Buddies for Tolerance
In addition to the United Buddy Bears, Buddy Bear Berlin repeatedly sets accents in the form of installations, actions or events and takes a stand for a peaceful and cosmopolitan Berlin and Germany. They firmly oppose populist and xenophobic tendencies. Promoting peaceful coexistence and overcoming differences could hardly be more critical at the moment. For Buddy Bear Berlin, however, it goes beyond the mere message:
All activities of the Buddy Bears also always go hand in hand with helping children in need – be it auctions or the most diverse fundraising campaigns. Buddy Bear Berlin, the company behind all these activities, donates a part of its income from the online shop to charitable causes, and buyers of large sculptures also have the opportunity to support children's charities by purchasing Buddy Bears. Through all activities, more than 2.5 million euros have been collected for needy children since the beginning of the Buddy Bear story.