In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, celebrated American artist and activist Shephard Fairey has created a portrait of Kennedy, layering the words of the speech into the work. Gifted to the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Art in Embassies, the portrait will be permanently installed in the newly dedicated John F. Kennedy Forum at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. An unveiling ceremony took place on Monday, June 26, 2023.
This year is also the 60th anniversary of Art in Embassies, which was established by the Kennedy administration. The office is observing the anniversary throughout the year with its Democracy Collection initiative engaging in art diplomacy for democracy at U.S. embassies around the world.
“Just as Kennedy made a clarion call for democracy in Berlin 60 years ago, President Joe Biden today calls on us to strengthen and defend democracy around the world,” said Art in Embassies Director Megan Beyer. “In Berlin, the Democracy Collection honors and echoes Kennedy’s historic democracy challenge with this work by iconic street artist Shepard Fairey.”
Kennedy’s speech offered American solidarity to the citizens of West Germany, calling West Berlin a symbol of freedom in a world threatened by the Cold War: “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’” Artists from all over the world emblazoned the divisive Berlin Wall with calls for freedom, with many crediting the graphic expressions with helping to bring it down.