Lennon Wall Prague

Lennon Wall bounces back

New murals fill the empty space a few days after art group whitewashed it

Portraits of murdered musician and peace activist John Lennon, as well as a walrus and a yellow submarine, are among the new spray-painted pieces on the Lennon Wall, a major tourist attraction in Prague’s Malá Strana district.

The wall was painted completely white save for the words “Wall Is Over” on Nov. 17, the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. A so-called artist group calling itself Pražská služba has claimed responsibility for the action. Group member Jan Dotřel posted an explanation on his Facebook page claiming that the destruction of the monument was an act of art and not vandalism. He said that he wanted to give the wall a new start for a new generation.

The wall has been home to messages relating to John Lennon and the Beatles, as well as political messages since 1980, when the singer was assassinated in New York. It was one of the few places in Prague where people could practice free speech under communism, although authorities often painted it over. People posting political slogans under communism were known as “Lennonists.”The wall is owned by the Czech Grand Priory of the Order of the Knights of Malta, who allow it to be used for graffiti.

Dozens of people came on Saturday, Nov. 22, to see the wall, which is now almost completely covered with new messages. A young Czech man who gave his name as Petr was among the most active artists. He and his crew of about five young men and women brought several spray cans of various colors of paint, a ladder, a pan, a roller, a can of white paint and cardboard stencils.

The stencils included two portraits of Lennon, a hand with two fingers in a peace sign and initials with the birth and death dates of the musician.

Petr was also willing to lend his wares to curious tourists, who added little touches here and there. Some of the new paintings were good, while others fell into the nice try category. One large portrait of Lennon was reminiscent of the 2012 “restoration” of the Ecce Homo painting by Elías García Martínez in a Santuario de la Misericordia church in the Spanish city of Borja by an untalented but well-meaning parishioner.

A street musician who gave his name a George sang Beatles songs and solo material from Lennon for several hours.

The slogan “Wall Is Over” has been changes to “War Is Over.” The phrase “Wall Is Over” is a pun on John Lennon’s controversial anti-war ad campaign “War is over — If you want it.” Lennon bought billboard space in 12 cities around the world in December 1969 with the phrase. The concept was reused as lyrics in a 1971 holiday song.

Opinions over whether painting the wall white was a justified political statement or an act of vandalism have varied.

“If the communists couldn’t stop the wall then I doubt a bunch of pretentious students have much of a chance,” one person said on Prague Post’s Facebook page.

“I have no idea what’s wrong with people these days. But I am confident the wall will be back!” another reader said. One reader called the whitewashing artists “a bunch of idiots.”

Yet another reader was amused. “You must admit it is funny,Wall Is Over. I have no doubt it will return as fresh and colorful as ever,” the reader said.

One supporter used sarcasm. “How dare those insolent students use this wall for some kind of ‘statement’! It is only permitted to draw colorful hearts and write things like ‘Cory and Jess, summer semester 2014’!” he said.

Finally, one said, “It’s fantastic. It’s long overdue.”

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