|Birth name||Frank Shepard Fairey|
February 15, 1970 |
Charleston, South Carolina
|Field||Public art, Stenciling|
|Training||Rhode Island School of Design|
|Works||Andre the Giant has a Posse
Rock the Vote
|Awards||Brit Insurance Design Awards Design of the Year
AS220 Free Culture Award
Frank Shepard Fairey (born February 15, 1970) is an American contemporary street artist, graphic designer activist and illustrator who emerged from the skateboarding scene. He first became known for his "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" (…OBEY…) sticker campaign, in which he appropriated images from the comedic supermarket tabloid Weekly World News.
He became widely known during the 2008 U.S. presidential election for his Barack Obama "Hope" poster. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston calls him one of today's best known and most influential street artists. His work is included in the collections at The Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Early life and education
Shepard Fairey was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Strait Fairey, is a doctor, and his mother, Charlotte, a realtor. Fairey became involved with art in 1984, when he started to place his drawings on skateboards and T-shirts.
Fairey's first art museum exhibition, entitled Supply & Demand (as was his earlier book), was held in Boston at the Institute of Contemporary Art during the summer of 2009. The exhibition featured more than 250 works in a wide variety of media: screen prints, stencils, stickers, rubylith illustrations, collages, and works on wood, metal and canvas. As a complement to the ICA exhibition, Fairey created public art works around Boston. The artist explains his driving motivation: "The real message behind most of my work is 'question everything'."
Fairey sits on the advisory board of Reaching to Embrace the Arts, a nonprofit organization that provides art supplies to disadvantaged schools and students. In May 2006, Fairey became a board member of the Music Is Revolution Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports music education for students in public schools.
Fairey created the "André the Giant Has a Posse" sticker campaign in 1989, while attending the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). This later evolved into the "Obey Giant" campaign, which has grown via an international network of collaborators replicating Fairey's original designs. As with most street artists, the Obey Giant was intended to inspire curiosity and cause the masses to question their relationship with their surroundings.
The Obey Giant website says: "The sticker has no meaning but exists only to cause people to react, to contemplate and search for meaning in the sticker". The website later goes on to contradict this statement however by saying that those who are familiar with the sticker simply find humor and enjoyment from its presence and that those who try to look deeper into its meaning only burden themselves and often, end up condemning the art as an act of vandalism from an evil, underground cult.
Originally intended to garner fame amongst his classmates and college peers, Fairey states "At first I was only thinking about the response from my clique of art school and skateboard friends. The fact that a larger segment of the public would not only notice, but investigate, the unexplained appearance of the stickers was something I had not contemplated. When I started to see reactions and consider the sociological forces at work surrounding the use of public space and the insertion of a very eye-catching but ambiguous image, I began to think there was the potential to create a phenomenon."
In a manifesto he wrote in 1990, and since posted on his website, he links his work with Heidegger's concept of phenomenology. His "Obey" Campaign draws from the John Carpenter movie They Live which starred pro wrestler Roddy Piper, taking a number of its slogans, including the "Obey" slogan, as well as the "This is Your God" slogan. Fairey has also spun off the OBEY clothing line from the original sticker campaign. He also uses the slogan "The Medium is the Message" borrowed from Marshall McLuhan. Shepard Fairey has also stated in an interview that part of his work is inspired by other street artists.
After graduation, he founded a small printing business in Providence, Rhode Island, called Alternate Graphics, specializing in t-shirt and sticker silkscreens, which afforded Fairey the ability to continue pursuing his own artwork. While residing in Providence in 1994, Fairey met American filmmaker Helen Stickler, who had also attended RISD and graduated with a film degree. The following spring, Stickler completed a short documentary film about Shepard and his work, titled "Andre the Giant has a Posse". The film premiered in the 1995 New York Underground Film Festival, and went on to play at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. It has been seen in more than 70 festivals and museums internationally.
Fairey was a founding partner, along with Dave Kinsey and Phillip DeWolff, of the design studio BLK/MRKT Inc. from 1997 to 2003, which specialised in guerrilla marketing, and "the development of high-impact marketing campaigns". Clients included Pepsi, Hasbro and Netscape (for whom Fairey designed the red dinosaur version of mozilla.org's logo and mascot).
In 2003 he founded the Studio Number One design agency with his wife Amanda Fairey. The agency produced the cover work for The Black Eyed Peas' album Monkey Business and the poster for the film Walk the Line. Fairey has also designed the covers for The Smashing Pumpkins' album Zeitgeist, Flogging Molly's CD/DVD Whiskey on a Sunday, Led Zeppelin's compilation Mothership and movie Celebration Day, and Anthrax's The Greater Of Two Evils. Along with Banksy, Dmote, and others Fairey also created work at a warehouse exhibition in Alexandria, Sydney, for Semi-Permanent in 2003. Approximately 1,500 people attended.
In 2004, Fairey joined artists Robbie Conal and Mear One to create a series of "anti-war, anti-Bush" posters for a street art campaign called "Be the Revolution" for the art collective "Post Gen". "Be the Revolution" kicked off with a night of performances featuring Z-Trip, Ozomatli and David J at the Avalon in Hollywood. Fairey also co-founded Swindle Magazine along with Roger Gastman.
In 2005 he collaborated for a second time with Z-Trip on a limited edition 12-inch featuring Chuck D entitled "Shock and Awe". In 2005 Fairey also collaborated with DJ Shadow on a box set, with t-shirts, stickers, prints, and a mix CD by Shadow. In 2005 he showed abroad, for instance in Paris at the Magda Danysz Gallery. In 2005 also, he was a resident artist at the Contemporary Museum, Honolulu. Also in 2005, Fairey contributed the artwork for the posters, cover art, and graphics for Walk The Line'' the Johnny Cash biopic. In 2006, Fairey contributed eight vinyl etchings to a limited-edition series of 12" singles by post-punk band Mission of Burma, and has also done work for the musical group Interpol.
The book Supply and Demand: The Art of Shepard Fairey was released in 2006. In 2008, Philosophy of Obey (Obey Giant): The Formative Years (1989–2008), edited by Sarah Jaye Williams, was published by Nerve Books UK, and praised by Fairey.
Fairey donated original cover art to the 2008 album Body of War: Songs That Inspired an Iraq War Veteran, produced for Iraq War documentary Body of War. Proceeds from the album benefit non-profit organization Iraq Veterans Against the War.
In 2008 Fairey teamed up again with Z-Trip to do a series of shows in support of then presidential candidate Barack Obama entitled Party For Change. Fairey also designed posters for the British goth band Bauhaus.
In September 2008, Shepard opened his solo show titled "Duality of Humanity" at The Shooting Gallery in San Francisco. His third solo show with the gallery featured one hundred and fifty works, including the largest collection of canvases pieces in one show that he's done.
Fairey was arrested on February 7, 2009, on his way to the premiere of his show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Massachusetts, on two outstanding warrants related to graffiti. He was charged with damage to property for having postered two Boston area locations with graffiti, a Boston Police Department spokesman said. His arrest was announced to party goers by longtime friend Z-Trip who had been performing at the ICA premiere at Shepard Fairey's request.
On April 27, 2009, Fairey put three signed copies of his Obama inauguration posters up on eBay, with the proceeds of the auction going to the One Love For Chi foundation, founded by the family of Deftones bassist Chi Cheng following a car accident in November 2008 that nearly claimed Cheng's life.
In 2011 Time Magazine commissioned Fairey to design its cover to honor "The Protester" as Person of the Year in the wake of the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and other social movements around the world. This was Fairey's second Person of the Year cover for Time, his first being of Barack Obama in 2008.
The Hope poster
Fairey created a series of posters supporting Barack Obama's 2008 candidacy for President of the United States, including the iconic "HOPE" portrait. The New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl called the poster "the most efficacious American political illustration since 'Uncle Sam Wants You'". Fairey also created an exclusive design for Rock the Vote. Because the Hope poster had been "perpetuated illegally" and independently by the street artist, the Obama campaign declined to have any direct affiliation with it. Although the campaign officially disavowed any involvement in the creation or popularization of the poster, Fairey has commented in interviews that he was in communication with campaign officials during the period immediately following the poster's release. Fairey has stated that the original version featured the word "PROGRESS" instead of the word "HOPE", and that within weeks of its release, the campaign requested that he issue (and legally disseminate) a new version, keeping the powerful image of Obama's face but captioning it with the word "HOPE". The campaign openly embraced the revised poster along with two additional Fairey posters that featured the words "CHANGE" and "VOTE".
Fairey distributed 300,000 stickers and 500,000 posters during the campaign, funding his grassroots electioneering through poster and fine art sales. "I just put all that money back into making more stuff, so I didn't keep any of the Obama money", explained Fairey in December 2009.
In February 2008, Fairey received a letter of thanks from Obama for his contribution to the campaign. The letter stated:
I would like to thank you for using your talent in support of my campaign. The political messages involved in your work have encouraged Americans to believe they can change the status-quo. Your images have a profound effect on people, whether seen in a gallery or on a stop sign. I am privileged to be a part of your artwork and proud to have your support. I wish you continued success and creativity.– Barack Obama, February 22, 2008
On November 5, 2008, Chicago posted banners throughout the downtown business district featuring Fairey's Obama "HOPE" portrait.
Fairey created a similar but new image of Barack Obama for Time magazine, which was used as the cover art for the 2008 Person of the Year issue. The original iconic "HOPE" portrait was featured on the cover of Esquire Magazine's February 2009 issue, this time with a caption reading, "WHAT NOW?" Shepard Fairey's influence throughout the presidential election was a factor in the artist himself having been named a Person of the Year for 2008 by GQ.
In 2009 Fairey's Obama portrait was featured in the book Art For Obama: Designing Manifest Hope and the Campaign for Change, which Fairey also edited.
In his December 8, 2010 appearance on The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert asked Fairey how he felt about having done the "HOPE" portrait of Obama and how "that hope was working out for him now?" to which Fairey replied: "You know, I'm proud of it as a piece of grassroots activism, but I'll just leave it at that".
Fairey created a mutt version of the red, white, and blue poster, donating it to help support pet adoptions, from an image of a rescued shaggy dog taken by photographer Clay Myers. Four hundred limited edition prints were offered by Adopt-A-Pet.com, a nonprofit organization that helps shelters, humane societies and rescue groups advertise their homeless pets to potential adopters. The poster, which was also offered as a free download, was featured on the cover of the spring 2009 edition of Dog’s Life magazine.
Legal issues with appropriation and fair use
Fairey has been criticized for failing to obtain permission and to provide attribution for works he used. Fairey has threatened to sue artists for the same technique. Austin, Texas-based graphic designer Baxter Orr did his own take on Fairey's work in a piece called Protect, with the iconic Obey Giant face covered by a SARS respiratory mask. Orr marketed the prints as his own work. On April 23, 2008, Orr received a cease-and-desist order from Fairey's attorneys, telling him to stop selling Protect because it violated Fairey's trademark. Fairey threatened to sue, calling the designer a "parasite".
Originally, Fairey had claimed his HOPE poster was based on a 2006 copyrighted photo of then-Senator Barack Obama seated next to actor George Clooney, taken in April 2006 by Mannie Garcia on assignment for the Associated Press, which wanted credit and compensation for the work. Garcia believes that he personally owns the copyright for the photo, and has said, "If you put all the legal stuff away, I’m so proud of the photograph and that Fairey did what he did artistically with it, and the effect it's had". Fairey said his use of the photograph fell within the legal definition of fair use. Fairey claims he used pieces of the photo as raw material to create a heroic and inspirational political portrait, the aesthetic of which was fundamentally different from the original photo. Lawyers for both sides tried to reach an amicable agreement.
"Fair use" is determined by how much a new work changes an older one. At first Fairey claimed he used the photo of Clooney and Obama and cropped the actor out of the shot and made changes. In February 2009, Fairey filed a federal lawsuit against the Associated Press, seeking a declaratory judgment that his use of the AP photograph was protected by the fair use doctrine and so did not infringe their copyright. In October 2009 Shepard Fairey admitted he had tried to deceive the Court by destroying evidence that he had instead used the photograph alleged by the AP. Fairey admitted he had used a close-up shot of Obama, also taken by Mannie Garcia, as the AP had long alleged. The solo photo appears much more similar to the final HOPE poster than the photo of Clooney and Obama.
Fairey's lawyers announced they were no longer representing him, and Laurence Pulgram, an intellectual property lawyer, stated that the revelation definitely put Mr. Fairey's case "in trouble". In May 2010, a judge urged Fairey to settle. The parties settled in January 2011. On February 24, 2012, Fairey pleaded guilty to criminal contempt of court for "destroying documents and manufacturing evidence." On September 7, 2012, Fairey was sentenced to 300 hours of community service, ordered to pay a $25,000 federal fine, and placed on probation for two years by U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank Maas.
Fairey was questioned about criticism surrounding his use of images from social movements, specifically images created by artists of color, in an interview with Liam O'Donoghue for Mother Jones. O'Donoghue later posted an article, titled "Shepard Fairey’s Image Problem", on several independent media sites. The article explored Fairey's use of copyright protected images while at the same time defending his copyright protected works from being used by other artists and corporations. Fairey cited his collaboration with Public Enemy, his funding of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, and his six-figure charitable contributions for Darfur assistance as counterpoints to the charges of exploitation. "I challenge anybody to fuck with that, know what I mean", Fairey stated. "It's not like I'm just jumping on some cool rebel cause for the sake of exploiting it for profit. People like to talk shit, but it's usually to justify their own apathy. I don't want to demean anyone's struggles through casual appropriation of something powerful; that's not my intention."
Erick Lyle has accused Fairey of cynically turning graffiti culture into a self-promoting advertising campaign. On the other hand, San Diego Union-Tribune art critic Robert L. Pincus says Fairey's work "is political art with a strong sense of visual style and emotional authenticity. Even in times when political art has ebbed, Fairey's has just the right balance of seriousness, irony and wit to fit the mood of the moment". The Walrus contributor Nick Mount wrote "Following the example set by gallery art, some street art is more about the concept than the art. 'Fuck Bush' isn’t an aesthetic; it’s an ethic. Shepard Fairey’s Obey Giant stickers and Akay’s Akayism posters are clever children of Duchamp, ironic conceptual art." However, Stephen Heller of The New York Times suggested that Fairey’s political art is not any more unique than political art from the past, yet compares, in fact and in equal terms, to political art created by Andy Warhol.
In a New York Times review of "E Pluribus Venom" at Jonathan LeVine Gallery, art critic Benjamin Genocchio described Fairey’s art as “generic” despite the range of mediums and styles used by the artist. Genocchio went on to say that it was tempting to see Fairey’s art as just another luxury commodity.
The director of Ad Hoc Art, Andrew Michael Ford, stated that Fairey‘s practice does not “match up“ in the minds of people who view his work. Ford suggests that some people will view Fairey’s work as “very commercial”. In his criticism of Fairey’s art he went on to suggest that Fairey is “ripe” for criticism because he profits off of politically and socially charged works. Ford stated that despite his criticism he is a fan of Fairey work.
Artists Mark Vallen, Lincoln Cushing, Josh MacPhee, and Favianna Rodriguez have documented how Fairey has appropriated work by Koloman Moser, Ralph Chaplin, Pirkle Jones, Rupert Garcia, Rene Mederos, Félix Beltrán, and Gary Grimshaw, among others. In his critique, "Obey Plagiarist Shepard Fairey", Vallen dissects various pieces of Fairey's work, proving them to be directly plagiarized from the work of other artists. Although Jamie O'Shea takes that criticism to task for a "nearly ubiquitous lack of understanding of the artist’s use of appropriated imagery in his work and the longstanding historical precedent for this mode of creative expression" in addition to being masked in a thin "veneer of obvious envy in most cases".
Art critic Brian Sherwin lashed out at O’Shea’s criticism of Mark Vallen by saying that O’Shea’s SUPERTOUCH article was nothing more than “damage control”. Sherwin questioned the intentions of O’Shea’s support for Fairey. Sherwin pointed out that Fairey is a SUPERTOUCH author as well as a business associate of O’Shea. Sherwin suggests that O’Shea has a “vested” interest in making sure that Fairey is viewed positively by the public since he has curated art exhibits involving Fairey and has written extensively about Fairey. Sherwin wrote that O’Shea once served as editor in chief for Juxtapoz and has worked as a creative director hired by corporate art collections as a corporate liaison for acquisitions. Sherwin concluded that the public will “question the artist who says to question everything” regardless of O’Shea’s Mark Vallen “damage control” on SUPERTOUCH. Sherwin implied that O'Shea's critique of Vallen was selective because key negative facts about Fairey's history were left out in the article. The dispute between Sherwin and O’Shea was cited by Dan Wasserman on The Boston Globe’s "Out of Line".
Bloggers have criticized Fairey for accepting commissions from corporations such as Saks Fifth Avenue, for which his design agency produced illustrations inspired by Constructivism and Alexander Rodchenko. Fairey defends his corporate commissions by saying that clients like Saks Fifth Avenue help him to keep his studio operational and his assistants employed. Fairey has acknowledged the irony of being a street artist exploring themes of free speech while at the same time being an artist hired by corporations for consumer campaigns. Of this he has stated that designers and artists need to make money. "I consider myself a populist artist," Fairey says. "I want to reach people through as many different platforms as possible. Street art is a bureaucracy-free way of reaching people, but T-shirts, stickers, commercial jobs, the Internet – there are so many different ways that I use to put my work in front of people."
In August 2011, Fairey received a black eye and a bruised rib after being attacked outside of the Kodboderne 18 nightclub in Copenhagen, Denmark. Fairey claims the two assailants called him "Obama illuminati" and ordered him to "go back to America". He believes the attack was the result of a misunderstanding over his artwork commemorating the demolition of the legendary Ungdomshuset (youth house) at Jagtvej 69. His mural of a peace dove in flight surrounded by a circle of Tønder lace above the word “Peace” was vandalized within 24 hours of its unveiling with graffiti slogans "no peace" and "go home, Yankee hipster".
The media reported that the artwork was commissioned by the city of Copenhagen, but this was not true. The original mural was organized by Fairey's Copenhagen gallery, V1, and was not a government-sponsored propaganda piece.
Appearances in other media
- Fairey designed the album artwork for Flogging Molly's Whiskey on a Sunday.
- Appears in the 2006 videogame, Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, as himself.
- Fairey provided the design for the Obey Giant room at The Creek South Beach.
- Fairey designed the cover for the books Woodstock Experience by Michael Lang, Dan Garson, Henry Diltz (Genesis Publications, 2009)), A Heartbeat and A Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears. (Basic Books/Nation Books, 2009) by Antonino D'Ambrosio and the cover of the Smashing Pumpkins album Zeitgeist, Led Zeppelin's Mothership, Sage Francis's Li(f)e, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' The Live Anthology and, in 2010, Stone Temple Pilots's eponymous album.
- He designed the album cover for will.i.am's second solo album Must B 21 (Soundtrack to Get Things Started).
- On January 19, 2009, Fairey created a Google Doodle for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday.
- On January 20, 2009, Fairey made a radio appearance on the Fresh Air program from WHYY, an NPR affiliate, discussing his "Hope" poster, the official Obama inauguration poster and his many arrests (14 times) in connection with the installation of his "street" works. On February 26, 2009, he was again a guest on Fresh Air discussing the Associated Press lawsuit over the Obama Hope poster.
- On February 11, 2010, Stephen Colbert debuted a poster on The Colbert Report that was designed in collaboration with Fairey. The poster, created for Colbert's coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics, depicts Colbert wearing a crown of leaves, carrying an Olympic Flame and riding an eagle, with the catchphrase, "Vancouver 2010: Defeat the World".
- Rash, Video Documentary 2005. 17-minute interview conducted in April 2003 with Shepard Fairey in Sydney, Australia. Includes footage of Shepard and partner Barbara installing a paste up wall in a gallery side event at Semi Permanent conference in Sydney.
- Fairey's iconic Obey logo appears in several levels of the Tony Hawk's Underground 2 video game. It also appears briefly in part two of the anime Afro Samurai.
- The "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" is also a stock spray image in Valve's popular video game title CounterStrike (v1.6, the spray was not included in CounterStrike: Source)
- Fairey features heavily in the Banksy movie Exit Through the Gift Shop, which documents the birth of Mr. Brainwash.
- Along with artists Frank Stella and Andres Serrano, Fairey appeared on The Colbert Report on December 8, 2010. As part of a segment with comedian Steve Martin, Fairey sprayed his Obey logo on a portrait of Colbert.
- On the September 13, 2011 episode of The Young and the Restless, an American television soap opera, character Devon Hamilton purchased a Shepard Fairey original, Commanda, as the first piece of art for his new office.
- On the March 4, 2012 episode of The Simpsons, Fairey appeared as himself.
- Appeared in the 2012 film Bones Brigade: An Autobiography as himself.
- In 2013 a short narrative film based on the story of Shepard Fairey was released called Obey the Giant.
- In the 2013 comedy film This is the End, actor James Franco is depicted as having an "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" in his home and claiming it to be his favorite painting.
Fairey resides in Los Angeles with his wife Amanda and daughters Vivienne and Madeline. In addition to his successful graphic design career, Fairey also DJs at many clubs under the name DJ Diabetic and Emcee Insulin, as he has diabetes.
- Banksy (Bristol) - graffiti, stencil graffiti
- ABOVE - multi colour stencils, large word play paintings and hanging arrows
- Tatyana Fazlalizadeh - illustrator, street artist
- Invader - mosaic
- List of street artists
- Shepard Fairey wins Design of the Year. Dezeen Magazine http://www.dezeen.com/2009/03/19/shepard-fairey-wins-design-of-the-year/
|url=missing title (help). Retrieved 15 November 2013.
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- Lance Armstrong Races Ahead With Shepard Fairey Designed Bike
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- LA Weekly
- ‘’Ohmidog!’’ magazine, “Obama poster artist does one for the dogs.” February 6, 2009
- Cover, ‘’Dogs Life’’ magazine, Spring 2009
- The artist Mark Vallen posted an an essay criticizing this practice, along with multiple examples.
- How phony is Shepard Fairey?, Dan Wasserman, The Boston Globe, February 2, 2009.
- Obey My Lawyers, Dan Wasserman, The Boston Globe, February 2, 2009
- Artist Cage Match: Fairey vs. Orr, Richard Whittaker, The Austin Chronicle, May 13, 2008.
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- "AP alleges copyright infringement of Obama image".
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- David Ross Interview. ColbertNation.com, February 11, 2010
- "Stephen Colbert and Shepard Fairey Collaborate on Olympic Poster" Huffington Post, February 12, 2010
- "To please Steve Martin, Colbert updates a portrait". Associated Press via Google. December 9, 2010. Archived from the original on December 9, 2010.
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- Shepard Fairey Inc. Artist/Professional/Vandal by James Daichendt, Cameron + Company;(December, 2013)
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- Beautiful Losers (film)
- "Shepard Fairey in arte Obey. La vita e le opere del re della poster art" di Sabina de Gregori, Castelvecchi editore, 2011
- Obey Giant Website
- Shepard Fairey on National Public Radio in 2009
- Shepard Fairey on National Public Radio in 2008
- Interview on Huffington Post
- Interview with Manuel Bello
- Shepard Fairey: Inspiration Or Infringement? NPR, February 26, 2009
- Example/Selected Artworks By Shepard Fairey
- Short Film of Shepard Fairey Working In His Studio (Watch)