Prague’s Graffiti-Laden John Lennon Wall Whitewashed

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A woman walks passed the whitewashed John Lennon Wall in Prague (2014). Photo: Petr David Josek, courtesy AP Photo.
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The Prague Lennon Wall, whitewashed (2014). Photo: @rickchan66, via Instagram.
Prague's John Lennon Wall, whitewashed (2014). Photo: @rickchan66, via Instagram.
A woman walks passed the whitewashed John Lennon Wall in Prague (2014). Photo: Petr David Josek, courtesy AP Photo.
A woman walks passed the whitewashed John Lennon Wall in Prague (2014). Photo: Petr David Josek, courtesy AP Photo.
New tags appear at the whitewashed John Lennon Wall in Prague (2014). Photo: Flip Singer, courtesy EPA.
New tags appear at the whitewashed John Lennon Wall in Prague (2014). Photo: Flip Singer, courtesy EPA.
A street musician plays in front of the John Lennon Wall in Prague (2014). Photo: Petr David Josek, courtesy AP Photo.
A street musician plays in front of the John Lennon Wall in Prague (2014). Photo: Petr David Josek, courtesy AP Photo.
The John Lennon Wall in Prague (2014). Photo: Steven Feather, via Flickr.
The John Lennon Wall in Prague (2014). Photo: Steven Feather, via Flickr.
Prague's John Lennon Wall (2008). Photo: Lauren Guidice, via Facebook.
Prague's John Lennon Wall (2008). Photo: Lauren Guidice, via Facebook.
A girl lights candles at the John Lennon Wall in Prauge (1996).
A girl lights candles at the John Lennon Wall in Prauge (1996).
The early years of Prague's John Lennon Wall (circa 1983). Photo: David Sedlecký, via Wikimedia Commons.
The early years of Prague's John Lennon Wall (circa 1983). Photo: David Sedlecký, via Wikimedia Commons.

Prague’s iconic John Lennon Wall, a graffiti magnet since the musician was assassinated in 1980, has undergone a reset, erasing decades of accumulated street art. An artist collective known as Prague Service whitewashed the wall on Monday, leaving the message “Wall Is Over!” on the suddenly-blank canvas.

The bold action marked the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the 1989 Velvet Revolution, and thus the non-violent transition of power that led to the end of communism in Czechoslovakia. In a Facebook post, one of the artists, Jan Dotrel, insisted the whitewashing was “an art project,” not an act of  vandalism. Unintentionally, however, Prague Service has followed in the footsteps of Communist authorities, who routinely censored the landmark back in the day.

Public street art havens are somewhat of an endangered species these days: the Prague whitewashing took place almost a year to the day after New York’s Long Island City graffiti mecca, 5Pointz, was painted over by developers looking to tear down the complex to build condos (see “Destruction of Graffiti Mecca 5Pointz Is Underway“). The demolition is still on going, but the 5Pointz name may live on, if the developers’ attempts to trademark the name for the new project are successful (see “Developers Who Razed 5Pointz Seek to Trademark Its Name“). Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, the future of a Post-it note version of the Lennon Wall remains uncertain (see “Is Hong Kong’s Protest Art Worth Saving?“).

According to the collective’s official statement, Prague Service hoped that returning the Lennon Wall to a state of tabula rasa would “offer a free space for the messages of a rising generation.” Indeed, within a short time, “Wall Is Over” (a reference to the popular John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band song “Happy Xmas [War Is Over]”) was joined by a round of fresh tags such as “The wall is never over! Just imagine. . .” The popular tourist attraction, located at Grand Priory Square near the Charles Bridge, was also painted green in 2000 by another art group. Nevertheless, the Order of Malta, who owns the site, is reportedly considering legal action against Prague Service.


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