Shepard Fairey: Clandestine Asshole

Secrecy is of utmost importance to the graffiti artist. After all, their chosen medium remains illegal. And good graffiti rivals more traditional artistic pursuits, especially now, when controversy is valued much more than pure talent in the art world.

I used to be a huge fan of Shepard Fairey (of Obey/Giant fame) while he was still underground. He’s since ruined the surprise for everyone.

Fairey broke rule number one of guerilla art: you never, ever show your face. You are not doing this for publicity, after all, nor for money. You are doing this to get your anarchic message to the masses, whether they like it or not.

As well intentioned as Fairey’s Barack Obama portrait may have been (and I believe that is debatable) it will eventually prove to be his undoing. He’s recently admitted lying about the source picture, all while in the midst of a court battle with the Associated Press and his lawyers are talking about walking.

This case was supposed to finally decide what constitutes fair use. Guerilla bloggers used to console themselves with the notion that any amount of alteration to a picture makes it your property. Obviously this is not written in stone, but the argument could be made and many underground artists looked forward to the proceedings.

Not so anymore. Fairey is screwed. He has neither a pot to piss in, nor a window to throw it out of. The AP will calculate lost revenue that doesn’t actually exist (according to Fairey, he allowed others to use his Obama portrait for free). This means Fairey will have to ante up and graffiti artists are not exactly the wealthiest people in the world.

Fairey lost his footing when he decided to exploit his artistic proclivity for money and publicity. In addition to this debacle. Fairey launched a failed law suit against a Pittsburgh man who made a product that had nothing to do with any aspect of Fairey’s art, save of a slight resemblance in name only.

Fairey claimed the man used his Giant trademark (the ubiquitous Andre the Giant face) without permission. What’s ironic is that Fairey was the recipient of similar suit launched by the World Wrestling Federation for using their trademarked name (i.e. Andre the Giant), in which he simply responded by excising the ‘Andre’ and merely labeling his creations Giant.

Either Fairey is unaware of how tawdry that comes across, or he simply didn’t care.

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  • radiac

    This was a looong time coming…

  • Adam

    My friend used to have a small site that made t-shirts, a couple of the t-shirts had the word “obey” on. He got a letter from Fairey's lawyers demanding that he stopped using “obey” or they were going to take him to court aswell. This was about 5 years ago and we live in england, miles away from Mr. Fairey. What an arse, its about time he was caught out for selling out.

    • radiac

      That's pretty funny considering he stole the “OBEY” tag from the movie “They Live”. Where is Rowdy Roddy Piper when you need him?

  • chubble-space-hippo-scope

    Art thieves get whats coming to them.

  • chubble-space-hippo-scope

    Art thieves get whats coming to them.

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