The art of the story

„Of Fish and Men“

Von Fischen und Menschen

The story of

Thomas Merkel

I was born and raised in Hamburg.

Am I religious? That is a difficult question. I can’t give you a straight answer. No. Honestly, because there are a few things, when I ask myself why? I was with my true love, we were together for almost 25 years, and she died in my arms. And then I ask myself why? She didn’t do anything to anyone. On the contrary, she helped where she could. And then what? It’s been over four years now. Almost four and a half years.

I did my training as a painter and varnisher quite late in prison. I had some time to serve, so I thought I’d take the opportunity because once you’re out, you won’t be able to get it together anyway. I know that, I know myself too well. And as I said, I’m a junkie, I have to add. Substituted now, for about 17-18 years, roughly. But as I said, if I had gone out there now without the degree, I wouldn’t have finished it. I also waived my early release for that at the time and then finished my exam.

My mother worked in our neighbor’s pub three times a week and on Sunday mornings she always worked in a pub at the fish market. When I was eight or nine, I went down in the morning and helped my mother in the kitchen, and the older I got, the more I got ahead. It was an interesting job, and you learn a lot about people.

You learn to assess them very well. Not to 100% now, but I already know how you can crack a joke, or if you’d rather not. There are assholes everywhere – I’ll say that. But there are also nice people. I also always try to be nice and polite to people, even if they insult me.

I was on the run and had to figure out how to get money. And that’s how I came to Hinz&Kunzt. Because I didn’t want to keep doing any crooked things that would have gotten me caught sooner or later. And then I would have gotten that on top. They caught me later for one more thing, but that’s how I got the slightly longer sentence, and that’s when I did my training.

I sell Hinz&Kunzt out of genuine belief and with my heart and soul. Because it helps me and why should I take part in any bullshit, I wouldn’t dream of it. With interruptions, that’s 22 years this year in April.

I have also made connections with other people through this. And some contacts or many contacts have been strengthened through this. And I meet with them regularly. Or when they see me, we have coffee or a beer together. Or they invite me to dinner. And that’s no surprise, because as I said, I’m always nice and friendly to people, and if they don’t see me for a few days or so, they also ask, “Have you seen Thomas?”

The biggest wish I have is to have my own little apartment. Everything else comes second because only once I have that, I can see a step further.

Right now I live in a tent. Where I’m not telling, every time I’ve spoken about it, then at least the next day my place was cleared or things were cut up.

What makes me happy? I’m happy when I meet my regular customers, when I can talk to them and they take time for me. Not just handing me €2 and buying a newspaper, but just sitting down with me, talking to me about normal things. That’s what I’m happy about at the moment.

My number is 2735.

For me, the most important part of my family died in my arms 4.5 years ago. And my family means a lot to me. I have a sister and a brother, and both my parents are still alive. Although sometimes it’s not that easy, especially with me, the black sheep of the family.

More about Thomas:

Text: Annette Woywode
Foto: Mauricio Bustamante

30 artworks created by 30 Hinz&Künztler:innen

Just click on one of the following artworks for further information.

Am 22. November wurde ein Teil der Homeless Gallery zusammen mit zahlreichen Kunstwerken und Auktionslosen, die namhafte Künstler*innen gespendet hatten, versteigert. Mehr als 40.000 Euro kamen an diesem Abend für das Straßenmagazin Hinz&Kunzt zusammen.


Die Werke der Homeless Gallery, die im Rahmen der Auktion aufgrund der Vielzahl nicht unter den Hammer kommen konnten, können ab sofort über einen Auktions-Nachverkauf erworben werden.

Jedes Bild aus der Homeless Gallery ist ein Unikat, zu dem es ein Echtheitszertifikat gibt. Alle Erlöse des Nachverkaufs fließen vollständig an Hinz&Kunzt, die gemeinsam mit einer Hamburger Stiftung neuen Wohnraum für Obdachlose schaffen.

„Wir freuen uns sehr, über das große Interesse an der Homeless Gallery und den Lebensgeschichten ihrer Künstlerinnen und Künstler”, sagt Hinz&Kunzt Geschäftsführer Jörn Sturm. „Es zeigt, dass wir mit der Ausstellung einen Nerv getroffen haben und dass die Menschen unseren Einsatz für Obdach- und Wohnungslose schätzen. Natürlich sind wir sehr glücklich über den Erlös, den die Versteigerung eingebracht hat, und möchten uns herzlich bei allen Besucher*innen, Mitbietenden und Käufer*innen bedanken.”

Auch eine kleine Auswahl an weiteren Kunstwerken kann noch erworben werden. Der Nachverkauf-Katalog ist hier zu finden: