Prague 1 taking on graffiti

The district says the city's efforts so far have not been enough

The Prague 1 district has stepped up its fight against graffiti. The district has launched an anti-graffiti team to remove or cover graffiti on facades within the district.

This will be an addition to efforts by the city as a whole, which Prague 1 Deputy Mayor Richard Bureš (ODS) said were insufficient to handle the task.

The Prague 1 district covers much of the city's historical center including Old Town and most of Malá Strana plus parts of Hradčany and New Town.

Cleaning up the city center has long been a goal of the Prague 1 Town Hall.

“Clean streets, repaired facades and beautiful public spaces have long been our priority. This work is within the authority of the municipality, but we think it is not enough,” Bureš said, according to daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD).

The anti-graffiti team will focus on paintings on walls. “Our goal is to clean the entire center, but most of the buildings are in private hands. We are already conducting a dialogue with their owners; we want to convince them to join us in the fight against illegal sprayers,” Bureš said.

The graffiti cleaners will use new technology that district tested in the pilot mode last year. When possible, walls will be cleaned with high-pressure water directed along the lines of the graffiti to force the paint off the surface.

In other places, the paintings will be painted over in a color that matches the background of the wall.

The Prague 1 cleaning team will be more flexible than the service the city provides and will be able to pay attention to specific areas more closely.

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.

In the past, graffiti has been on several protected monuments in Prague 1. A tourist who wrote in Arabic on a statue on Charles Bridge in 2017 was 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. An international 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.

Some other districts in Prague have been fighting graffiti on buildings as well, but also setting aside large blank walls and similar places for creative murals. Prague 4 and 11 are among the districts that offer places for street artists.

Sometimes a city district embraces a work of street art. In October 2017 an air vent to a communist-era anti-nuclear shelter was painted to resemble R2D2 from the film series Star Wars.

The Prague 2 district has also been drawing a hard line on graffiti on buildings. The district authorities decided to make an exception based on its artistic merit and allow the rogue R2D2 to stay while re-emphasizing its commitment to remove the unattractive scribbled names from building facades.

One of the more famous pieces of street art was the Pink Tank by artist David Černý. He painted a Soviet tank pink and placed a giant pink middle finger on top of it in 1991. The tank was in a public square as a monument to the Soviets for liberating Prague at the end of World War II.

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