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The buffed Lennon Wall (photo by @rickchan66/Instagram)

The so-called John Lennon Wall in Prague, which, since its namesake’s assassination in 1980, has been a popular destination for tourists, taggers, and street artists, was completely erased with white paint on Monday by an artist collective calling itself Prague Service.

The John Lennon Wall shortly after it was buffed by Prague Service (photo by @matushy/Instagram) (click to enlarge)

Buffing years of accumulated graffiti, the group left the wall entirely white save for the sentence “Wall Is Over!,” the AFP reported, an allusion to the subtitle of Lennon’s song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” The artists timed their white-washing to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution — the nonviolent uprising that led to the end of Communism in Czechoslovakia — and said they hoped that their gesture would “offer a free space for the messages of a rising generation,” according to the AFP.

It didn’t take long for others to take advantage of the free space and begin filling the Lennon Wall with tags again. However, the wall’s owner, the Order of Malta, was not so quick to dismiss the incident, and is pursuing legal action against the artists.

Though intended as an homage to Czechoslovakia’s overthrow of Communism, the collective’s wholesale buffing of the popular attraction unwittingly replicated the behavior of the former Communist authorities, who regularly painted over the subversive messages inscribed on the wall during the 1980s. Prague’s Lennon Wall recently inspired a similar mural in Hong Kong as part of the city’s ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations.

The John Lennon Wall in October 2014 (photo by Steven Feather/Flickr)

The John Lennon Wall in 2012 (photo by Brian Jeffery Beggerly/Flickr)

The John Lennon Wall in 2011 (photo by erigion/Flickr)

A bas relief portrait on the John Lennon Wall in 2007 (photo by brandon schauer/Flickr)

The John Lennon Wall circa 1983 (photo by David Sedlecký, via Wikimedia Commons)

The John Lennon Wall in August 1981 (photo by Neptuul, via Wikimedia Commons)

Crowds at the John Lennon Wall in 2012 (photo by Sheep”R”Us/Flickr)

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

11 replies on “Art Students Erase Historic Graffiti Wall in Prague”

  1. Sorry, but I prefer to side with the artists and not the Order of Malta (one of the most conservative organizations EVER) and its “self-expression”-beatles’ bullshit. Come on!… “the wall is never over… just imagine”, “i’m a dreamer”, what the hell is that?? another stupid attraction for tourists: Prague is full of them.

    1. Agreed. Having just seen the wall — which had just been tagged quite a lot by Notre Dame football fans — I found it to be a giant, depressing spew of banality. I know I’m walking a fine line given the wall’s history, but painting over the crap I saw is NOTHING like painting over anti-totalitarian messages in a communist state. It seems to me that the artists are attempting to get people to be critical again. If only it worked!

  2. if you’re going to cry and call people dumb every time your graffiti is painted over, then go paint on a canvas.

    1. “However, the wall’s owner, the Order of Malta, was not so quick to dismiss the incident, and is pursuing legal action against the artists.” It’s the property of the owner and should be left or painted over as he sees fit- it being in a public space is no basis for your argument as your motor vehicle is often in public space but I’m fairly sure you’d cry if someone painted over it as they saw fit.

  3. I doubt the artists are unaware of the Soviets’ tactic of buffing graffiti. They are stating that the wall had lost its utility. It’s filled with nostalgia, meaningless rhetorical tropes and feel good fake optimism that isn’t fit for today. A new generation of artists is ready to address our contemporary condition critically, analytically and without a sentimental pretense. Don’t sing along to the mindless melody. Switch out the record. Wake everyone up to the changing circumstances. Break the spell.

  4. it would have been better if they had used the existing grafiti to create the lettering. at first i was like – the hubris of these fucks! but it’s begining to grow on me. in a way they just created more blank space for people to mark. i think the thing thats beautiful about this wall is the layering of graffiti over many years. and this is another part of that.

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