John Lennon wall

John Lennon Wall vandalized

Alleged art group painted the entire wall white and stenciled ‘Wall is Over’ on it

Sometime during the night and early morning of Nov. 16–17 the famous Lennon Wall in Kampa, Prague was painted over completely white, save for the stenciled phrase “Wall is Over.” A postscript saying “If you want it, Happy Anniversary from Miloš and Vladimír” also appeared, but it is not clear if that was added later.

My mid-afternoon on Nov. 18, several people had turned up with spray paint and magic markers to redecorate the almost barren wall.

The Lennon Wall is a major tourist attraction. It is owned by the Czech Grand Priory of the Order of the Knights of Malta, who allow it to be used for graffiti with positive messages. It has been home to Beatles lyrics and portraits of John Lennon since shortly after his assassination in 1980. The wall was also used for anti-communist slogans in the late 1980s by “Lennonists” who opposed the then-Czechoslovak government. It was painted over several times by communist authorities.

An alleged art 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. It is not clear how many members are in the group.

Dotřel and one other group member were also present at the wall on the afternoon of Nov. 18 giving interviews while disappointed tourists looked at the nearly blank wall and some artists were attempting to undo the damage with new graffiti designs. A small stenciled portrait of John Lennon had already reappeared. A large silver and black message showing unity for a Lennon Wall in Hong Kong was also helping to fill the blank space.

Dotřel said that the wall was painted white to commemorate the fall of the Iron Curtain and to give the wall a new beginning 25 years after the Velvet Revolution. He said he hoped that something even better would spring up in its place. It was not an end, but a new beginning for the wall so it could have a new set of messages from the new generation.

He also denied that it was vandalism. At one time there had been a famous portrait of Lennon on the wall, but none of it was left, he said, and nothing of any value was painted over. He seemed very eager to get publicity for his actions and quickly went toward video cameras when they arrived.

He added that 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.

There are conflicting reports over whether charges will be pressed.

Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported that the Order of the Knights of Malta originally filed a criminal complaint over the whitewashing, but dropped it when the student group came forward and accepted responsibility for their actions. The Associate Press reports that Czech Television has said legal action will go forward and that Dotřel confirmed that to be the case.

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