Iconic West Loop Murals Of Juice WRLD, Frankie Knuckles Mysteriously Painted Over

WEST LOOP — Several West Loop murals were mysteriously painted over, including two that memorialized musicians Frankie Knuckles and Juice WRLD.

The murals are part of the B_Line, a series of more than 250 murals along the Hubbard Street viaduct in the West Loop. Artists from across the world have contributed to the collection of street art spans several city blocks from Aberdeen to Green streets, including the underpasses, said resident Levar Hoard, its chief curator and managing director.

But over the weekend, the vibrant murals in one underpass were completely painted over in brown paint.

Whoever destroyed the murals did it “intentionally” because its location is well known and attracts tons of people to the neighborhood, Hoard said. He believes the artists whose work was destroyed should be compensated and he’s already contacted attorneys.

“We’re trying to get the bottom of it,” Hoard said.

Credit: Melody Mercado/Block Club Chicago
No one is claiming responsibility for painting over numerous murals in the West Loop.

Under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, courts can impose statutory damages of up to $150,000 for artists’ work that’s of “recognized stature” if a property owner destroys it.

In 2018, a New York judge awarded $6.7 million to 21 artists whose graffiti murals were destroyed at the 5Pointz complex.

It’s not known who painted over the murals. The city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation said their graffiti-removal crews aren’t responsible. They’ve been known to use white paint.

“[Streets and Sanitation] does not stock or use the paint colors represented today at the location in question. City crews also do not use paint rollers to remove graffiti from large areas but rather paint sprayers to save time and materials,” a spokesperson said.

The viaduct is owned by Union Pacific Railroad. Officials there said the company did not paint over the murals or authorize anyone to do it.

“It is illegal to trespass on Union Pacific property, and, more importantly, it is dangerous,” a company spokesperson said.

Metra officials said they don’t know who removed the murals.

And Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), who represents the area, also said he doesn’t know who painted over the murals. But neighbors have complained in the past about people partying in the underpass, he said.

“People come from all over the city [to] come hang out around those murals. And they litter in the area, disrupt the residents, park all over the place,” Burnett said.

Hoard and neighborhood groups have had talks in the past about concerns, but there was never a consensus that removing murals was the way forward, Burnett said.

“What I’m concerned about is people disrespecting people’s property, and people disrespecting people’s peace. We just try to do the best we can to mediate that kind of stuff,” Burnett said.

Credit: Melody Mercado/Block Club Chicago
No one is claiming responsibility for painting over numerous murals in the West Loop.

Hoard said he strongly believes the murals were unfairly targeted.

“From my experience in the past, with the murals … People don’t like the fact that Black and brown kids are coming to look for this mural, and generally not causing problems, but they’re hanging out there … and a group of privileged white people don’t like that,” Hoard said.

Union Pacific Railroad has not had any issues with the art on the B_Line, some of which has existed since the ’70s when it was known as the Hubbard Street Murals, Hoard said.

The Juice WRLD mural painted in 2020 by artist Corey Pane to commemorate the famous rapper and Chicago native who died of an accidental overdose. The portrait depicted Juice WRLD surrounded by butterflies and shooting starts, similar to the cover design for his posthumous album “Legends Never Die,” according to the Sun-Times.

Credit: B_Line Facebook Page
Juice WRLD Mural that was painted over in West Loop.

Juice WRLD’s managers commissioned Pane to create the mural at 810 W. Kinzie St. Pane told Block Club he received tons of messages over the weekend and was disappointed to see it was painted over.

“I feel like the mural is more than just Juice WRLD. It’s bigger than him and it means a lot to people and brings people together in a positive way, which is the most important thing …,” Pane said. “Now with it being taken away, I feel like it’s more hurtful to a lot of people.”

The painted-over mural of Frankie Knuckles, the creator of House music who died in 2014, was commissioned in 2018 by the Frankie Knuckles Foundation. The mural replaced a mural for Knuckles in Logan Square, which was destroyed in 2015.

Pane said he doesn’t think painting over the murals will keep people from gathering there, and he hopes he can repaint the Juice WRLD mural.

“I think there’s a way that we could work together and make it work for everybody,” Pane said.

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