Wall Is Over: Prague's Lennon Wall covered by tarps, will re-emerge as a gallery for professional artists

After the wall is renovated, it will host professional art and be guarded by cameras

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 07.10.2019 09:25 (updated on 07.10.2019)

Prague’s John Lennon Wall as it has existed since the 1980s has ended. Scaffolding and blue tarps now cover the wall, which is undergoing a renovation that will cost 250,000 CZK. After that is completed, most of the wall will be a protected open-air gallery with paintings by professional artists. Only a small section will be available to the public.

The renovations, to fix structural problems, should be finished by November 17, in time for the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

The wall at Velkopřevorské náměstí is owned by the Embassy of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who will pay for the repairs. The order has been working with City Hall and the Prague 1 district to resolve the recent situation, where alcohol-fueled tours would end up there and inebriated tourists would paint vulgar graffiti. The Knights of Malta have even filed a criminal complaint against unidentified people regarding vandalism, but no arrests have been made.

lennon wall
Tarps going up over the Lennon Wall. via Raymond Johnston

The wall in the future should contain only works by professional artists related to former Beatles member Lennon or messages of peace. It will be monitored with cameras.

The damaged cornice
of the top of the wall will be fixed and missing tiles will be
replaced. The portal will be made more secure, and the structural
support for the wall will be strengthened.

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Originally, more
extensive repairs were planned, but these would have extended into
early 2020, which the order felt was too long to keep the wall shut
down.

lennon wall
Tourists take a few last photos as the tarp goes up. via Raymond Johnston

Prague 1 Deputy
Mayor Petr Hejma said that the new rules for the wall are currently
being developed. “We want to declare the Lennon Wall a memorial
place. Visitors will be obliged to behave in a certain way on the
spot, which will be enforced by the Municipal Police,” he said.
Busking for money will not be allowed, due to complaints from local
residents about noise. “Of course we will not stop anyone from
taking their guitar with their friends and going to sing Beatles’
songs. But we will not support targeted busking,” he said.

Prague 1 will
install security cameras near the wall and strengthen police patrols.

Inscriptions and inspirational poems began to appear on the site in the 1970s, though these would be quickly painted over by the then-communist authorities. After the murder of John Lennon in 1980, portraits of the former Beatle and his song lyrics began to appear.

lennon wall
Tourists writing on the Lennon Wall in summer 2019. via Raymond Johnston

Among the people to
visit the wall were Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, in 2003 and original
Beatles drummer Pete Best in 2010.

In 2014, the wall
made international news when a group of artists painted it white save
for the inscription “Wall Is Over,” a pun on Lennon’s peace
campaign “War Is Over.”

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In March 2019, two dozen international artists were invited to paint the wall with new pictures of Lennon, former Czech president Václav Havel, and peace slogans in several languages. This was for the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, and was meant to last for the rest of the year.

lennon wall
Portrait of Václav Havel in March 2019. via Raymond Johnston

Just weeks later,
though, an environmental group painted the wall white again save for
a few spaces such as Havel’s face, and added large environmental
slogans. That quickly vanished under layers of random scribbling. A
new portrait of Lennon by an unknown artist was added on May 1, but
defaced soon after.

Another portrait
added over the summer managed to survive until the renovation
started.

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The wall also inspired similar Lennon Walls in Hong Kong during the recent protests there. Messages relating to freedom in Hong Kong also sprang up on the Prague wall in both English and Cantonese. Pro-Beijing messages began to appear just before the scaffolding went up.

lennon wall
Pro–Hong Kong graffiti in September 2019. via Raymond Johnston