Colourful, traditional, diverse – Munich’s city districts. “Out and about with ...” offers very personal insights through the eyes of the people who live here and who know their neighbourhoods best. This time: street art artist Loomit shows us around his Werksviertel-Mitte.
The Werksviertel-Mitte area blends the old with the new. Once the site of the Pfanni company’s industrial buildings and more recently known as a famous party district, it is now developing into a neighbourhood full of culture and life. And right in the midst of it is Loomit, an early pioneer on the Munich graffiti scene. He has played a pivotal role in shaping the city’s street art scene, and has been based in today’s Werksviertel-Mitte area since 1996. As we get a coffee together and set off on a stroll through the area, he talks about his beginnings, what he values about the area and why he recently organised a festival which invited only women to paint walls.
Good morning! Would you prefer me to call you Mathias or Loomit?
Good morning. Everyone calls me Loomit, actually – including my kids and my wife. Even my mother is starting to do it now! Lots of people are called Mathias, so there’s always a risk of confusion; with Loomit, it’s obvious who people mean.
How did you actually get your artist name?
I come from the graffiti scene, and I am still part of it now. When I started painting illegally in 1983, I obviously needed a pseudonym. One night I watched the Marilyn Monroe film “Niagara” on BR [Bayerischer Rundfunk, a German broadcaster], which is about a detective called Mr Loomis. I liked the name and figured I would give it a go. But when I tried it in tagging – which is writing – I was unfortunately no good at the “s” in Loomis. So then I just took the next letter in the alphabet, which worked and also sounded good. I then started out as Loomit by illegally spraying walls in Schwabing. I did end up going to court and being convicted, but the judge felt that my work had artistic value, so I was legally allowed to continue using the name. That was partly because I had been prudent and never tagged trains with the name Loomit, for example.
Speaking of trains, when you were young, you were involved with the Geltendorf train – the first wholetrain in Europe. That means that you guys painted a suburban train from front to back – what was the mood like that night?
Pure adrenaline! It was a new experience for all of us. We took one of the last suburban trains of the evening and then sneaked up to a train that had been parked there for ages. The next morning we walked to another station and got the train back to Munich from there.
Did you get away with it?
Well, I was convicted. We didn’t actually get caught, but some of our colleagues blabbed about who was responsible for the wholetrain.
When did the city first recognise graffiti as art? At first they probably saw it as vandalism, right?
No, the spray painting was of a high quality from the very beginning. I think that is because Munich is a city which has a real affinity for art. We picked up a bit from New York, but we had to invent the rest ourselves – we were completely self-taught. As early as 1985, there was a huge open area in Dachauer Strasse – the city rented it out to flea markets, but there wasn’t much going on there during the week. When we started spraying there, it quickly became clear that people liked it. Two days later we were sitting at a table with the tenants, and they ended up buying us cans of paint. So we were welcomed very early on.
Werksviertel-Mitte is a place with lots going on, especially from an artistic perspective. Why should tourists come here?
Let’s start with the food offerings. We are sitting here in Mariss Bar, which serves great Italian coffee. And the restaurant scene here is great in general, because there are no chain restaurants. Care is taken to ensure that the people operating the shops are also local. That means that the products on offer are very individual and there’s something to suit every taste. Whenever I invite my colleagues to join me here, they quickly notice that this is a very laid-back area, but also full of amazing sights.
After all, there has always been something going on here, and that will be true in future too.
Definitely! A short history lesson: We are standing on the former Pfanni premises. When the company was sold in 1996, there was a lot of development work going on here, which meant that space was made available for other uses on a temporary basis – that is what brought me here. As soon as I saw the place it was obvious that painting the façades would be a lot more exciting than just renting a studio and painting in it. Then, with the opening of a few crazy clubs, the nightlife took off and my colleagues and I found that we could really let loose artistically. The more we painted, the more interesting the whole place became. People didn’t come here just to party, but also because of the art.
What else is there here for tourists to see and experience?
In the WERK3 building, you can always call into the White Box – a large exhibition and event room where you can also watch artists in action. The Heaven’s Gate climbing hall will be reopening soon – you can go bouldering there and climb up the insides of potato silos that are 30 metres tall. And especially when the weather is nice, lots of stuff happens outdoors because Werksviertel is pedestrianised; the work moves outside then, too.
The Container Collective is a great place to sit in the sun, enjoy a drink and watch the world go by.
It is. And to look into the glassed-in spaces from outside.
After finishing our coffee, we walk across the area. Loomit points out small, hidden artworks to us as well as large pieces, and regales us with information about their creators. In the WERK3 building, we see the stairwell he painted: the walls are adorned with huge images of insects and other animals. The artwork is appropriate for the building, as these stairs lead up to the roof which is home to the Stadtalm nature project. Sheep, hens, bees and ant colonies all live on the roof, and are part of the neighbourhood’s sustainability concept. The Almschule (Alpine school) here gives children and young people the opportunity to experience a little piece of nature first-hand. From there we walk to the WERK9 building and marvel at the incredible variety of murals that span the building frontages. In Loomit’s studio, we talk about how they got there.
You have just shown us a very impressive wall that was decorated by a group of female artists as part of a women’s festival that you organised. Can you briefly explain how visitors can find those façades when they arrive in the area?
That is the back of the WERK9 building, which is located along the southern edge. You have to go around the building, but that’s interesting in itself because large areas of the other exterior walls are also painted. The back of the building has been sprayed with an ensemble covering almost 600 square metres. That was completed during the "Hands Off the Wall" festival in September 2020, an event which invited only women from the street art scene to paint.
Why did you feel a festival like that was important?
Because having spent 35 years on the festival scene, I’ve noticed that women are often only invited to participate so that the organisers can tick a box. I’ve always found that annoying, as I judge all artists purely based on their work. Caro Taschler is a colleague from Vienna who does ceramic street art. I suggested organising a women’s festival in Werksviertel to her, and I wanted to really think big. Because of her network, some very well-known female artists came.
You’re responsible for many of the works in the neighbourhood – where can people see your latest pieces?
At the moment I am doing a lot of interior design, for example for the Khanittha Thai restaurant. It started out as a tiny canteen, and now it’s moving into a larger space where there will be great street food and other delicious things on offer. I am currently spraying graffiti-style Thai motifs onto the walls there.
Great, thank you very much for the tip and the chat!