Popular Detroit artist defaces tribute to Asian American icon Vincent Chin

Detroit artist Sintex paints over a tribute to Vincent Chin.
Detroit artist Sintex paints over what was a tribute to Vincent Chin. (Steve Neavling/MCM)

It was an exciting opportunity for Detroit’s burgeoning art community.

Baltimore street artist Gaia, who is internationally renowned for his work promoting diversity, came to Detroit in June to paint a mural for no compensation to honor Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American beat to death by two white men in Highland Park in 1982. The black-and-white mural depicted a beaming Chin on a building along the Grand River Creative Corridor, a community project that has transformed drab buildings into alluring works of legal art.

Vincent chin mural
Vincent Chin mural

But for the first time since the project launched three years ago, several murals, including the one of Vincent Chin, have been vandalized in the past week.

The man who defaced the Chin mural is Sintex, a popular, confrontational Detroit artist who buffed the wall Thursday and began painting his own mural at the bewilderment of local artists, Asian Americans and others who had admired the memorial.

On Facebook, Sintex told Gaia, “The people in the community hated your piece bro.”

Also vandalized last week were smaller paintings, a sign for an affiliated art gallery and a large new mural by another Baltimore artist with the message: “FROM ASHES WE RISE.”

This mural by Baltimore artist Michael Owen was defaced.
This mural by Baltimore artist Michael Owen was defaced. (Steve Neavling/MCM)

“We’ve never had anything like this happen since the project started,” said Derek Weaver, who founded the Grand River Creative Corridor and provided living and work space for Sintex for the past two years.

Sintex, who was arrested last year for pulling a gun on an artist and was accused of doing the same thing this year near the Eastern Market, expressed no sympathy.

“The culture vultures should stop killing local graffiti,” he told me Sunday as he worked on a new mural about unity, expressing frustration that out-of-town artists were threatening to ruin the local graffiti scene with “cookie-cutter pieces.”

For three years, the wall on which the Chin mural was painted featured a mural by Sintex, whose work is prominently displayed throughout the GRCC. Like other walls, it was planned for a new mural on the 4000 block of Grand River just south of W. Warren.

More vandalism at the Grand River Creative Corridor.
More vandalism at the Grand River Creative Corridor.

“Sintex has known that our plan was to rotate murals every few years,” Weaver told me. “He gave us his blessing and met Gaia. We talked to the owner, Red, and told him the story of Vincent Chin. He was moved by the story and agreed to the memorial.”

But Sintex later insisted that the section of the mural that depicted two Native Americans was off limits and that they were “sentimental” to the owner. Sintex said he received permission from the owner to repaint the Native Americans. Beginning Thursday, he began buffing the entire wall and announced on Facebook that he would not be pushed aside.

“The beauty i provide to the real people of Detroit is my voice…my divine ambition is to revive the minds of the lost n dead in my community,” Sintex wrote. “this just is not just painting some bullshit ass mural about what you think my city is.”

In another Facebook post, Sintex declared, “ITS TIME WE FIGHT BACK!…WAKE UP!”

Gaia, whose real name is Andrew Pisacane, said he can understand the opposition to outsiders but not the destruction of a mural meant to memorize a civil rights icon.

“Buffing the memory of Vincent Chin is a misplaced critique on the murals that are clashing with graffiti,” Gaia said. “Instead it comes off as a gesture against the Asian community of Michigan.”

Gaia explained why he chose to do a mural of Chin.

“My only intention for the mural was to create a memorial to a man whose death was a watershed moment in pan Asian American politics,” Gaia said. “I wanted to extend the piece beyond remembrance and pair the mural with the a couple instances of global miracles that would eventually constitute global competition to the automative base of Detroit and the United States. In memorializing Vincent Chin’s murder, I did not want to shy away from the macroeconomic forces that engendered such racism.’

Weaver said he is considering equipping the GRCC with surveillance cameras.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • RichardNixon3rd

    This is how Sintex thanks Derek Weaver? Derek gave him a place to live for free for years. Derek created a venue for his art and arranged for publicity. Then Sintex chooses to trash the next project?

    Who wants to be treated the way Derek Weaver has been treated by Sintex? It’s easy. Just step up and support Sintex. Help Sintex. Give him a free place to live. Help him develop contacts in the media.

    Do what Derek did for Sintex, and he will treat you the same way.

    Do you want to be treated like that?

    I don’t think so.

    • Bill Thomas

      Don’t think for a minute that Derek Weaver is some kind of saint. First and foremost he’s a businessman. Giving Sintex “a place to live for free” was an investment, not philanthropy. Derek has some smarts, he must have known that his investment in Sintex would pay off something like this. He must have also known that Detroit artists don’t take too kindly to tourist artists coming in for a couple of days and pretending to know everything about Detroit.

    • Lynn Thompkins

      What goes around always comes back around

  • syntax

    Sintex’s shit is the most cookie-cutter graff out there. His stuff would be innovative if it was still 1987… Dude doesn’t know the first thing about unity.

    • fuckinidiots

      nope- you hella wrong bitch

  • Carl B. Oxley III

    Yes. Let’s celebrate Detroit artists WHO PULL GUNS ON PEOPLE. Are you kidding me? Way to be as many stereotypes as possible at one time. Maybe he could piss himself and smoke a blunt whilst painting a mural, and then EVERYONE will leave Detroit to once again die away.
    Sintex is going over a ton of walls. It’s only a matter of time before he starts going over everyone, even other Detroit artists.

  • David Reich

    Gaia’s mural is an insult to Vincent Chin’s legacy. He might as well go up to his mother and say “It’s Toyota’s fault your son died.” What’s he gonna paint next? Anne Frank flanked by Woodrow Wilson and Lenin? Or how about Scott Amedure flanked by Mike Priefer and Sam Newman?

    • Bill Thomas

      THANK YOU!!! Gaia’s mural is an insult not only to Vincent Chin but also to Ludwig Erhard, Sun Yun-Suan and Hayato Ikeda. Were they even in the same country when Chin was murdered? According to Gaia, it’s not a racist’s person’s fault that he’s a racist. Because of “macroeconomic forces,” a racist person can kill and not be held accountable.

  • Rafael Amador

    One of the few things as dirty as politics; Art.

  • Thee1tooth

    Steve seems to have serious beef with graffiti writers. I guess the guy doesnt appreciate unconventional art.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Personally, I preferred the Indians to the Chin Mural. It looked better, and it was there first. PLAIN & SIMPLE. If it was never painted over, then there wouldn’t be a problem. I’d be pretty pissed off if some out of towner, flash in the pan, new jack came and painted over my art that has been there for years. What we have here is COLONIALISM / SUPREMACY / Fuckery. A total disregard to place & history. There is no shortage of walls to paint in Detroit, so why any artist’s art is getting painted over in the first place doesn’t make any sense. Go paint somewhere else. And this article is obviously biased / one sided.

    • bebow

      You’ve reduced the issue of Colonialism/Supremacy/Fuckery in Detroit to a battle involving creative control over the side of an old building? When 95% of the city has been decimated behind the issue and the black majority lives in Third World squalor? While unselected people are dying as a consequence of it? As a fresh crop of illiterates is cultivated?

      • Lynn Thompkins

        Old building or not it belongs to my dad and if he wants Native Americans on his “old building then so be it.

  • lol

    better arrest him and treat him like the three girls who defaced property are being treated. 5 years in jail.. lol

  • Nain Rouge

    I, the Nain Rouge, and not Derek Weaver, am the one who invited Gaia to paint over Sintex’s mural. I knew Gaia would find a way to muddle the message of remembrance with extraneous stuff.

    • muckraker_steve

      Huh? Gaia has been incredible nice through this entire process.

      • Larry Gray

        It’s called “satire” thanks for feeding the trolls and not responding to me calling out your bogus allegations.

      • Please don’t get me wrong, Gaia is a very nice guy. A naive and ignorant nice guy, just the kind old demons like me like to play with.

    • Lynn Thompkins

      Well you should have gotten permission for him to do so.

  • 1Joshua

    If you seek a barbarized region, look around you.

  • Larry Gray

    Last thing I’ll add Steve, the definition of “deface” to spoil or damage the surface of something.

    I don’t think that surface was spoiled at all. I prefer the changes.

    The words used in your title clearly show your personal preference towards the former artists work, which is fine, but the title of your article is your opinion, and not a very good one at that.

    If you would like to hire me as an editor, you may be able to save a little face and possibly even regain a little journalistic merit. I don’t come cheap, and you probably won’t have very much material after I go through it though.

  • Rob

    Did you actually speak with the owner of the building while writing this story? Interviewing the owner, Red, could probably clear a lot of things up. Right now it seems like it is just Derek Weaver’s word against Sintex.

    • Lynn Thompkins

      No one spoke to my dad but Sintex and for that reason alone we respect him, his work and him as an artist.

  • Guest

    Poor, unmotivated and ignorant malcontents that don’t matter battling poor, unmotivated and ignorant malcontents that don’t matter, while the rest of the world ignores them. Dream bigger.

  • Ellie

    It is quite ignorant to speak as though this is an attack on the Asian-American community. Seems like the gentrification behavior we all all growing to know and understand. Why paint on top of an off-limits piece? Is that not ddisrespectful?

    • Bill Thomas

      I would like to know: was the Chin family consulted at all about Gaia’s mural?

  • bebow

    The whole “I’m gonna do whatever I want” thing is a big PROBLEM. There is an absence of awareness and appreciation for the concept of boundaries among the poorly socialized.

    • Larry Gray

      Why are people allowed to plaster McDonald’s advertisements on billboards, raping my eyes wherever I go? They can do whatever they want because they have money, and you’re ok with that, but a native Detroiter who has painted beautiful murals and graffiti since MCM was a snooty bay city resident, isn’t allowed to continue to paint as such without being labeled a thug because “you don’t like it”. Glad to know you confiorm to the money is power school of thought, and buy into Steve’s unearned sense of entitlement he has since he decided to pack his shit up from the Bay and move down to Detroit and slander a culture he knows nothing about. Graffiti has been around since before he was here and will be around long after he’s gone. Go to any major city and you will see the same thing, in an urban enviornment there will be people expressing themselves in different mediums, and whether or not you like that is no concern to anyone except yourself. Burned down buildings, abandoned warehouses and and public space is public, it’s not yours and it’s not his, so yes he can do whatever he wants.

      • bebow

        There is no shortage of surfaces available to paint in Detroit. It’s unnecessary to destroy someone else’s work. We are all free to choose to do whatever we want, and the universe is free to provide correction as needed.

        • Larry Gray

          And that’s exactly what happened… The unviserve corrected that wall.

          • bebow

            When you’ve lived long enough, you won’t have any difficulty understanding what I wrote here. You can file it away for contemplation at a later date if you choose.

          • Larry Gray

            I fully understand the point you were TRYING to make, but I disagree completely. You and MCM seem to be quick to make assumptions, jump to conclusions, and speak out of your element. The fact that you have a narrow way of thinking has nothing to do with me or my opinion on what is painted on that wall. You’d rather look at that old shit, i would rather look at sintex, who was originally on that wall. What we have is a difference of opinion, and that does not give me, you, or MCM, the right to slander another person, or make up a sensationalized version of the truth, just because he or you is butt hurt over what is painted on grand river.

          • bebow

            What is the slander?

          • Larry Gray

            He interviews Gaia and takes facebook quotes from sintex, never actually talking to him. I didn’t read his facebook but I’m guessing the snippets he used are probably out of context. Basically, this is a one sides story, as well as every article Steve rights with something he does not agree with. This is not journalism, this is an opinion blog of a self righteous liar. Even I can give credit where it’s due and say that Steve has had some good investigations in the past, but this article is complete garbage.

          • muckraker_steve

            Again, Larry, I talked Sintex in person. You are all over place.

          • Larry Gray

            Where is sintex quoted in this article besides on a facebook post?

          • fuckinidiots

            you clearly were commissioned by Weaver and/or are working for his best interests. Politics, money, politics…. you should be ashamed of yourself. Fucking sell out. You inherently claim to offer the truth in your articles and use that framework to be completely dubious to your mindless readers. Fuck you. Sintex is a genuine artist with his heart in the right place. Whatever, Sintex will prevail, and karmas a bitch

          • fuckinidiots

            sidenote: yes Sintex had a gun charge. That is not what I’m disputing. It’s bullshit that you can spout the misinformation riddled throughout this article

          • Larry Gray

            Also, he uses “hearsay” about someone using a gun as a form of intimidation, in an effort to defame someone’s character. Where is the proof? If you read that article, no charges were brought on sintex. There is no proof he did the same thing in Eastern Market. This is obvious BS.

          • muckraker_steve

            Larry, he admitted pulling out a gun at the Eastern Market.

          • Larry Gray

            Again, in your article it says “he was accused” of pulling a pistol at the market. Where’s the quote? Which is it, was he accused or did he tell you?

  • Shitnuts Mcgillicutty

    Seems like this fetal alcohol sydrome stricken “journalist” needs to get a fucking life. Cant wait for the day i read an article that this dickhead fuckraker has been gunned down or beaten to death. I pray for his sake he has his cpl and carrys at all times. The beating down of this man is inevitable. Detroits a big place but a really small town at the same time. Come out from whatever rock you hide under fucking coward. Slandering dead writers was the last classless choice youll make in Detroit graffiti.

    • bebow

      We all know how classy Detroit is, don’t we Exhibit A?

    • Gary

      You sound like a real bitch. Is this Frank the DNR dickhead?

    • muckraker_steve

      And here come the threats. Classy.

      • Dana Tiago Burton

        You’re than man who gets people arrested, guess you’re not new to this shit, you could have written a piece to bring the community together, but you chose the low route, playing the race card, portraying outside artists as peaceful multiculturalists and local artist as criminals and thugs, nothing classy about you at all. Be a man, stop defending yourself, apologize and do something REALLY POSITIVE for the community for once, instead of making a living off of exploiting Detroit’s darkside!

        • fuckinidiots

          hell yeah you on point Dana!

    • Jan

      what a horrible thing to put into print. An opinion is an opinion and not something to have a life threatened over. I hope that McGillicutty comes to his senses, a quickly realizes that in American people have a right to freedom of speech granted under the 1st amendment but not speech that promotes violence, so in essence, Mr/Ms Mcgillicutty has violated the right to free speech.

  • Gary

    Sintex needs to be removed

    • fuckinidiots

      wrong hoeeee

      • Brady Bever

        Having you as a cheerleader is really not helping Sintex’s case…

  • Guest

    This article is really really bad. What an amateur.

    • Ineedmy Bobo

      And your review of “really really bad” seems *so* professional and well-thought! I’m sure the author will take your comment to heart.

      • fuckinidiots

        no he’s just correct, theres nothing more to elaborate on – the writer is completely misinformed and bias

        • Gary

          wrong hoeeee

          • fuckinidiots

            haha you just copy and pasted my comment from above….? mad original. You’re clearly remedial. Especially because I’m attacking the article….and its misinformation. Can’t tell where the fuck you stand.

  • Larry Gray

    And this article seems very biased. Just short of slandering sintex. Maybe you should call the MCMR an opinion blog rather than journalism.

    • Guest

      MCM has a personal vendetta and it leaks to his writing.

  • Larry Gray

    The whole thing about art is, it’s subjective. You may not like it, but someone else does. It’s public space, and the public should use it at their discretion.

    • Rob

      I agree with you on art being subjective, but disagree about this particular wall being a “public space”. The wall in question is on a privately owned building. It is not the right of the public to decide what goes up there, but the right of the owner. Right now there is confusion on whether the owner gave the GRCC permission to entirely paint over the original mural that was up there. It is disappointing that the building owner, Red, was not interviewed for this story. He could have cleared up a lot of things.

      • Larry Gray

        I was unaware it was an occupied building. After rereading the article it seems as though sintex had the owner’s blessings. You’re absolutely correct. Regardless, the entire entire article stinks of an agenda by the author, and I hope the people who read this crap have minds of their own and don’t buy into the author’s bullshit.

      • muckraker_steve

        Rob, Red was manipulated. Red did give his blessing to paint the wall. Sintex is changing the narrative now, but he knows Red gave the permission. He talked Red into changing his mind, and then repainted the wall.

        • fuckinidiots
        • Lynn Thompkins

          And how could you be so sure. Of all the native Americans and blacks that has been slaughtered why wouldn’t he want it painted over. Manipulated my ass. #GTFOH

      • Lynn Thompkins

        You are absolutely correct. As far as Red being contacted for an interview is complete bull. The media doesn’t want to interview Red because they’re afraid of city officials and prominent people being exposed.

  • “Sintex, who was arrested last year for pulling a gun on an artist and was accused of doing the same thing this year near the Eastern Market…”

    ““The culture vultures should stop killing local graffiti,” he told me Sunday as he worked on a new mural about unity…”

    If there’s something this guy knows about, it’s unity.

  • Seems a lot of poor judgement was in play. Painting over a Native American mural, problematic. Responding by defacing a mural of Vincent Chin, also problematic. Could have picked a much better venue for the piece.

  • OneCanOnlyHope

    This isn’t art no matter how you look at it; the crap is ugly and should not be allowed at all, period, end of report!!!

  • Tom Sapp

    poor, poor , sintex….what a douche bag. go away ass hole. who cares where an artist comes from, art is art, and stop being such an arrogant baby

    • fuckinidiots

      fuck off bitch, the owner of the building didn’t want it painted over, bottom line- misguided faggot

      • Lynn Thompkins

        Thank you so much. The owner is my dad and the media lied when they said he was unavailable. Lies lies and more lies.