Chicago mural of Kanye West painted over amid fallout from antisemitic remarks
CHICAGO - A West Loop mural image of Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, was painted over Wednesday, as fallout over the Chicago native’s recent string of controversial and anti-semitic public statements earned him censure in his hometown.
The mural, which has faced West Lake Street near Morgan Street since 2021, had featured an 8-foot-high, photo-realistic painting of Ye over graffiti-style text, designed by artist Jason Peterson, who maintains office space in the West Loop.
Wednesday, at the request of the building’s owner and main tenant, MINIMAL Design founder and CEO Scott Wilson, Peterson painted over Ye’s likeness, leaving a solid black silhouette where Ye’s image once stood.
A few days ago, Wilson said he reached out to the artist to ask about altering or removing the mural in response to Ye’s recent remarks.
"I said ‘Dude, we’ve got to do something,’" Wilson said Thursday. "It seems like a lot of things [Ye] has said over the years get dismissed as just his creative genius, but some things just cross the line. As a creative person, I understand that art is about free expression and a statement of beliefs, but some things just cross a line."
Wilson said he and Peterson discussed several ideas before the artist settled on simply covering over Ye’s image in black paint.
"He showed up yesterday with a ladder and painted over it himself," Wilson said.
Peterson declined to comment Thursday.
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The smell of paint still hung in the air Thursday morning as pedestrians walked past the mural.
Ryan Johnson, a Chicago native, had seen pictures of the mural being painted over on social media and left his West Loop office to snap a photo. Johnson had been a fan of Ye and his music until "about the last two or three years."
"I approve" of covering over Ye’s image," Johnson said. "Kanye is just being an a—–, and who’s going to want to support that? What he’s been saying lately is just wild and reckless, and who’s going to follow that?"
Michael Staley, who said he passed the mural almost daily during his commute, disagreed.
"It’s like they are trying to snuff him out. It’s all very one-sided, the public shame they’re putting on him," Staley said. "You have a lot of people who say horrible things about Black people, and you don’t see them getting snuffed out."
The mural cover-up came as business partners rushed to sever ties with Ye. Athletic apparel giant Adidas announced the end of its partnership with Ye and the hugely successful Yeezy brand of footwear Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Ye and his entourage were escorted from Skechers’ California headquarters "after a brief conversation" when they arrived "unannounced and without invitation," according to The Associated Press. The shoe brand announced it had no intention of collaborating with Ye. Clothing retailer Gap and fashion brand Balenciaga both have cut ties to West in recent weeks.
Instagram and Twitter had suspended Ye’s social media accounts in recent weeks, but on Thursday, his Instagram account was reactivated, and the rapper had restarted his postings.
One post called out Ari Emanuel, brother of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and CEO of Endeavor, following the media mogul’s recent op-ed piece for the Financial Times in which he called on businesses to cut ties with Ye. In the post, Ye said the dissolution of his many brand partnerships in the wake of his controversial remark had cost him "2 BILLION DOLLARS IN ONE DAY." A spokesperson for Emanuel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In other developments, Ye’s private Donda School in California’s Simi Valley on Thursday was temporarily closed by school administrators amid the ongoing backlash, according to reports. Late Thursday, that decision was reversed, according to a report by huffpost.com.
The school is a separate entity from Donda’s House, a nonprofit arts organization founded by Ye and onetime musical collaborator Che "Rhymefest" Smith in 2012 and named for Ye’s late mother, Donda West. Smith and the organization years ago parted ways with the star, and changed the name to Art of Culture. A board member for the organization on Thursday said Ye does not financially support the organization.
The mural was auctioned off as an NFT in 2021, calling it "a one-of-a-kind NFT that exists across both physical and digital worlds." The winning bidder put up cryptocurrency that, at the time, was worth around $100,000, according to a transaction record on the website.