Street art in Prague has an international influence. The Slovakian connection remains strong, as reaching Bratislava is a morning train away, but so are Berlin and Vienna, among other cities. Nor is Prague the only Czech star of street art. Other Czech cities like Brno and Olomouc shouldn’t be overlooked. Brno, for instance, had a streak of anti-establishment artists during communism who opposed artistic controls and became bolder with public displays and acts.
By looking beyond their borders, Czech street artists continue a tradition of Czech art since the 19th century when many artists, such as Josef Mánes and Josef Čapek, developed their skills in Munich, Paris, and other art capitals.
Czech street artists have gained international and official state recognition, too. Artists like Pasta Oner, who describe graffiti as “a philosophical poem,” developed by graffitiing around Prague and now receive prestigious commissions and exhibit in renowned art galleries.
Much of the art relies on basic tools of the trade available from online stores like Bombing Science. Cans of spray paint slap up a stylized name or a burst of color to oppose a modernist, minimalist wall. Sticker prints tell pedestrians to oppose racism or promote Life Is Porno, a Czech streetwear brand. Paint markers leave a trail of names to follow a route that winds throughout the city.
A tension exists, however. The artists wielding stickers, spray paint, masks, and markers to express themselves operate in — at best — a legal gray area. Street art is pseudonymous, often political, and in constant flux. If a tourist can’t understand Czech, they can understand the colorful murals, portraits, and symbols scattered through the streets expressing an idea, a dream, a perspective — or a brand.
Those traits don’t easily resolve themselves, philosophically, to artistic prestige or commercial success. A medium that disrespects private property seems an odd one to harness for capitalism and profit. Regardless, that duality gets integrated on the streets.
Today, tracking street art in Prague, aside from walking city streets, has migrated onto Instagram, the social network most associated with commercialism and advertising. But it also fits in space to create a pseudonymous gallery and establish connections.
The city has several hubs for street art beyond the typical underpasses and construction sites. On Těšnov street near the Hotel Opera in New Town, street art covers the wall space near a small park and parking lot. On the west side of the Vltava river, the metro and bus station in Smíchov have some transportation-themed paints. Throughout the Žižkov neighborhood east of the main train station, the famously gritty vibe of the pubs and neighborhoods are reflected in the art that pervades it. Holešovice, the newly hipster area of the city north of the Vltava, has a splash of lines and colors around its Vltavská transit station. Any pedestrian underpass in the city is guaranteed to have as much graffiti and art as the concrete can bear.
What isn’t found throughout the city, however, is a stagnant form of art. Tourists might complain of a fairy-tale city “defaced” with graffiti, but Czech artists haven’t slowed in adding a splash of the contemporary among the well-preserved streets.