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"Hope" Poster Artist Shepard Fairey Charged With Felony Vandalism

Barack_obama_hope_poster Until last year, Shepard Fairey was probably most known for his ubiquitous "Obey Giant" images, which feature screen prints of the late Andre the Giant (whom you may recall as the lovable Fezzik from The Princess Bride). Of course now he is far more famous for another poster, the "Hope" poster featuring the now iconic and ubiquitous red, white and blue print of President Obama.

Fairey is now back in the news, having been charged with 17 charges of felony vandalism for posting his artwork on public property in the city of Boston.

Fairey and his attorneys argue that since the posted works are available for download, anyone could have printed and posted them. After the dismissal of seven of the charges due to lack of evidence, it's likely the other 10 will also be dismissed. However, if convicted, Shepard could face up to three years in prison. Really, Boston? Don't you have some real crime to prosecute?

It's of course fairly unlikely that Shepard Fairey physically posted these images himself, but that's not to say he doesn't encourage their distribution. Fairey has freely admitted to this in the past, and his guerilla self-marketing is a large reason for his notoriety. That said, there is an argument to be made that while he may not necessarily post his images illegally himself, he encourages the practice and is thereby culpable in some way. I think it's kind of a ridiculous argument, but you're welcome to take it up if you like.

Regardless of the intent behind making his images available to download and print, I don't think Shepard Fairey is culpable for what happens beyond that. He makes posters. People post them. They can either choose to post them in areas where they are allowed, or they can post them on municipal buildings where they aren't and risk being fined for doing so, should they get caught in the act. To fine the artist himself, simply because the work is readily identifiable as his, is absolutely ludicrous. 
 Let's say I print out a copy of "The Last Supper" and post it on a building where posted bills are considered acts of vandalism. Is Leonardo da Vinci guilty of vandalism? Well, no. He's dead. But you get my point, right?

Prosecutors also state that one of the charges stems from the discovery of a 6-by-8 foot mural painted on a condo building, which required "time and knowledge" to execute. Shepard has pled not guilty to that charge as well, however, and I'm even hesitant to say he's likely guilty of that one, since Fairey's images are iconic enough that any skilled reproduction artist could mimic them.

Of course the broader argument that always stems from these vandalism cases against renowned street artists is whether these pieces are vandalism or art. And I'm not sure I want to get into that argument today, because I've honestly had a long week already. So feel free to have it for me in the comments!


Related Posts:

Is this Banksy?

Banksy Pops Up in New Orleans in Time for Katrina Anniversary and Gustav's Arrival 

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where is the outcry against "activist judges" on this one?

oh, wait. we don't have a lefty version of fox news.

sorry. my bad.

class factotum

Does it matter if it is "art" if someone's private property has been defaced without his permission? I wouldn't care if Da Vinci wanted to paint a new version of the Last Supper on the walls of my house. If he did it without my permission, I would call the cops.


Yes - painting on property without permission would be cause for the owner of said property to be angry - of course, especially if it's not easily removed and could cause damange to the structure.

However - think about all the fantastic public art that would never have been erected had an artist been fined EVERY. TIME. they decided to present a work on a large and public scale.

If it's not necessarily hurting anything and isn't offending anyone and really everyone is quite happy save for the fact that it's on property not owned by the artist...what's the big deal?

Typically public art is only temporary anyway - calm down and enjoy the pretty secenery for once will ya?


That would be funny to see the cops digging up Leonardo da Vinci. Imagine the hilarity as he slips out of the cuffs again and again, until the cops finally procure a bag from somewhere and throw him in it.


These were posters stuck to public buildings - posters that can be removed, and buildings that were not private property. (At least, that's my understanding.) That's quite different than the time I painted hearts and flowers all over my neighbor's house with oil-based paints. I mean, the time someone did. I have no idea who.


I live in Boston, and it's pretty widely acknowledged around here that Fairey *did* a lot of putting up of the posters himself. In fact, he's given interviews in the past (pre-arrest) coyly hinting at the fact that he did so -especially early in his career when he was trying to get noticed. And here's the thing - this was not one or two random posters. This was entire walls papered in the things in perfect postage stamp formation. I get that an artist may have fans, but who is going to pay for 30 posters just to honor thier favorite artist and then risk arrest putting them up.

I really like his work, but it is disingenuious of him to say "oh, it was my fans."


And I really should have spell checked that before I hit post.....

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