More spaces for legal graffiti

Prague districts are setting aside places for street art

Graffiti has long been a problem in Prague, with several incidents of people vandalizing Charles Bridge and the National Theatre, among other landmarks. At the same time, many people consider large, colorful pieces to be street art, and the sprayers consider themselves artists.

Some parts of Prague are providing areas where sprayers can paint on walls, while cleaning up other places such as residential buildings and walls in public spaces.

Illegal spraying can result in a fine or one year in jail. For vandalizing national monuments the penalty is up to three years in jail. A tourist who wrote in Arabic on a statue on Charles Bridge was recently fined Kč 15,000 and given a three-year ban from re-entering the country. Two French tourists sprayed white lettering on the wall of Charles Bridge in 2016, though they were not caught. A warrant was issued for their arrest. A Japanese tourist was caught at the end of 2014 after he spray painted in the underpass of the National Theatre. In October 2014 two French tourists vandalized statues on the National Theatre. And those are just famous cases. Police routinely catch local sprayers in Prague neighborhoods and public transportation.

Prague 3 as part of its anti-graffiti campaign has cleared 15,000 square meters of graffiti in the district, which includes Žižkov. The program was launched in November 2016. The district pays for the cleaning of private property. Previously homeowners had to pay. The district states that it wants to suppress and vandalism.

But for people who want to legally practice graffiti there are an increasing number of places set aside for street art, where people can paint without facing any legal penalty. Several city districts are trying to accommodate sprayers, instead of taking a hardline approach like Prague 3.

Prague 4 now offers seven places including parts of Podolská, Modřanská and Vídeňská Streets, under the bridge on the bike path in Braník and in the underpasses at the Přístaviště and Pobřežní cesta tram stops.

Jižní Město has at least 11 areas and will have more in the future. Street artist Pasta Oner was involved in the selection of places. He has compared legal graffiti to a public open-air gallery, but he admitted the quality can vary.

Prague 8 is also contemplating establishing legal areas for painting, according to daily Pražský deník. Prague 8 spokeswoman Marcela Vozenílková told the daily that the district has seen the success in other city areas and was exploring options for suitable places. Prague 8 has already used street art to decorate underground passages. Vozenílková said that illegal sprayers for the most part do not vandalize the authorized murals.

Prague 5 is also planning on establishing spaces for legal street art. It is at the same time launching an anti-graffiti campaign to remove illegal graffiti from private and city buildings. The buildings must have vandalism insurance and a protective anti-graffiti coating. Prague 6 has a similar program and Prague 1 is preparing one.

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