Shepard Fairey

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Shepard Fairey : biography

15 February 1970 –

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.

Lance Armstrong rode a Trek Madone styled by Fairey in the 2009 Giro d’Italia, starting on May 9, 2009 in Venice, Italy.

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.

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: 

On November 5, 2008, Chicago posted banners throughout the downtown business district featuring Fairey’s Obama "HOPE" portrait., ABC WLS-TV, November 5, 2008

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 January 2009, the "HOPE" portrait was acquired by the US National Portrait Gallery and made part of its permanent collection. It was unveiled and put on display on January 17, 2009.

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.