Four artists of a Chinatown mural commissioned by the City of Vancouver are asking for accountability after their artwork was defaced last week.
The mural, known as “Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea,” was meticulously painted on the side of a two-story building on East Georgia Street in 2019. It was intended to represent the diversity of people throughout Chinatown’s history and to promote cultural redress before it became the target of graffiti taggers.
The painting was based on a Chinese folktale about eight immortals who use their unique powers to cross the East Sea. The artists, who are a part of the Bagua Artist Association, wished for the art to “spark conversations between generations and provide an opportunity to bridge cultures.”
While the artists are used to seeing their work tagged on a minor scale, the over five-feet-high black letters graffitied across the whole mural left them heartbroken, as they spent about 12 hours a day for over two weeks to complete it.
“It was jaw dropping because we’ve never had our mural destroyed so badly to this degree before,” artist Katharine Yi told the Vancouver Sun. “We were not expecting this to happen because there is the unspoken rule on the streets that graffiti artists don’t go over other people’s work.”
“It’s heartbreaking to see this,” artist Sean Cao told Global News. “We poured our love to the community into making and maintaining this mural.”
As artists of the Bagua Artist Association currently work with the City of Vancouver to remove the graffiti, the 77-year-old business owner of the now tagged building, Peter Lau, has taken it upon himself to start a petition calling on authorities to take stronger action against those responsible for graffiti in the area.
“There needs to be some accountability,” Lau told Vancouver Sun. “They also scribbled graffiti on my sign. You can’t have people destroying property and nothing is done.”
The executive director of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Lorraine Lowe, took to her Twitter to share a photo of the defaced mural.
“Maybe the myth has been debunked and this was just done for the hell of it,” Lowe told Global News, referring to the notion that taggers “respect” mural artists. “There needs to be some sort of message that this sort of thing should not be tolerated and there are consequences for these actions.”