Changes are coming to Prague’s John Lennon Wall to help return it to its original purpose as a symbol of peace and freedom. Recently, it has been filled with vulgar graffiti and scribblings, often made by tourists who are unaware of the historical significance of the site.
The wall will undergo a renovation to return it to its original reverent character. Spray painting by unauthorized people will be forbidden. Instead, a mural by professional artists will be created. Information about the history and symbolism of the place will be added. Security cameras will be installed to prevent vandalism.
The Lennon Wall is located in Kampa on the grounds of the embassy of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, or Knights of Malta for short. The religious order has maintained the wall since graffiti first appeared in the 1980s, after the death of former Beatle John Lennon. They have recently been concerned about abuse of the wall.
These changes come from a meeting of representatives of Prague 1 and the Knights of Malta. Further meetings will iron out details.
“I am glad that we agreed on a common approach, and we are not against each other. We will return to having a place of piety with its original luster. The wall will still carry on the legacy it had had so far, but in an artistic spirit. We are also planning an information campaign on its history,” Prague 1 Deputy Mayor Petr Hejma (STAN) said, according to daily Lidové noviny.
Knights of Malta spokeswoman Hedvika Čepelová said that the new look should return the wall to symbolism about John Lennon that it had in the past. “Today’s appearance reminds us of it only remotely. … We want a dignified reminder of the place,” she said.
Hejma said the Knights of Malta had suggested ending the use of the wall completely, but understood that this move would be unpopular.
Hejma added that Prague 1 will ensure that there will be no vandalism, unauthorized spraying and drinking parties at the wall. The district will install security cameras, reinforce patrols and clean up the graffiti on trees.
An infopoint that should set limits for the behavior of visitors is also being planned. Historical information about the wall should be available in several languages.
“Schools from all over the country come here, but as we have learned, they sometimes tell children that there is painting on the wall, but do not explain the reason,” Hejma said.
Loud busking and begging for money will also be banned, as there have been complaints from local residents and the French Embassy, which shares Velkopřevorské náměstí with the wall. Spontaneous singing and acoustic performances will be allowed if they are in line with enhancing the atmosphere of the place.
“We do not want busking here with people collecting money. If they want to play, they can, but only with the intention of promoting the atmosphere of the place,” Hejma said.
The wall itself is about 300 years old and made of sandstone. A garden owned by the Knights of Malta is behind it. The order plans to repair the wall after consulting with conservationists, as it is part of the city’s protected monument area.
Once the wall is repaired, professional artists should create an artistic mural of art relating to the legacy of John Lennon. Knights of Malta spokeswoman Čepelová said that images of Lennon and Havel are often rare on the wall these days.
An authorized mural made by international artists to celebrate 30 years of freedom was painted on the wall in March of this year. It had messages of peace and freedom in several languages and portraits of Václav Havel and John Lennon.
It lasted only only three weeks before a group of environmentalists in April declared a “guerrilla action” and painted the wall over completely with environmental slogans.
That in turn was rapidly painted over. On May 1, a national holiday for both love and labor, an artist painted a large portrait of John Lennon, though that too did not last long.
In 2014, a group of students intended to reboot the wall by painting it white in the middle of the night, and adding the phrase “Wall Is Over,” a pun on the Lennon’s 1970s campaign War Is Over. At that time, people quickly repainted the wall but mostly with pictures of Lennon and lyrics to Beatles’s songs.