Aretha Franklin Mural In Detroit’s East Market Is Defaced Overnight

Aretha Franklin
Scott Gries / ImageDirect

Instead of the Queen of Soul’s singing face, the mural in Detroit’s East Market was covered in gobs of paint. Empty paint cans were scattered on the ground surrounding the mural. The original mural artwork was created by London-based artist Richard Wilson, who was at the mural site repairing the damages on Saturday, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Wilson said he created the piece for the annual Murals in the Market competition. He spent 12 days painting the colorful piece that displays a rack of albums featuring classic Detroit artists, including Franklin. His piece can be found on the back end of the Gratiot Central Market, near where Busy Bee Hardware was formerly located.

“I finished it yesterday evening… all happy,” he said. “I came back this morning just to tidy up a bit, check if there’s anything I missed or anything.”

It appears that not only did the vandals destroy Wilson’s artwork, they used supplies they stole from him to do so. Wilson said there was a cherry picker with a raised basket that Wilson was using as he completed the mural. He stored his paint in the basket, which is apparently a common practice for mural artists. The arm of the picker is raised to prevent anyone from getting into the supplies, but the thieves somehow stole the two tubs of paint anyway.

“They’ve almost had to like tightrope up it… which is a lot of length to go to,” Wilson said, explaining how they would’ve had to climb up the machine’s arm. “You’d be hard pushed to make this kind of mess, especially if you’re stealing stuff you want to be a little bit, I would imagine, inconspicuous, but no…”

While the Aretha Franklin part of the painting was the section that received the most damage out of any, Wilson said he didn’t think that was a purposeful act, or intended to target the singer in any way. He said that the cherry picker happened to be parked near the section of wall where Aretha and J Dilla’s album covers were depicted, and the thieves merely took advantage of their proximity to complete their vandalism.

There was a Gratiot Central Market security camera right near the area. Police are reviewing the footage to see if they can find any clue to the suspects’ identity. There may be some physical evidence as well; Wilson said he spotted some paint footprints near the area.