Art Index: Shepard Fairey AKA Obey
Article written by Alessandro Berni on March 23, 2021
"If being original means having to throw paint in front of a jet turbine to hit a canvas 50 ft away then let's not be original."
- Shepard Fairey
DAMAGED WRONG PATH MURAL © Shepard Fairey AKA Obey
Frank Shepard Fairey (born February 15, 1970) is an American contemporary street artist, graphic designer, activist, illustrator, and founder of OBEY Clothing who emerged from the skateboarding scene. He first became known for his "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" (...OBEY...) sticker campaign while attending the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
Fairey was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina.
He attended Wando High School in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, and transferred to high school at Idyllwild Arts Academy in Idyllwild, California, from which he graduated in 1988.
Fairey became involved with art in 1984, when he started to place his drawings on skateboards and T-shirts. He moved to Rhode Island in 1988 to attend the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). In 1992 he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration from the RISD.
In 1989 he conceived and created the Andre the Giant Has a Posse initiative, scattering the walls of the city with stickers that reproduce the face of wrestler André the Giant; the same were then replicated by other artists in other cities. Fairey himself then explained that there was no particular meaning in the choice of the subject, the sense of the campaign was to produce a media phenomenon and to make citizens reflect on their relationship with the urban environment.
His notoriety expanded to the general public when, in 2008, the artist created and posted in the main American cities a four-color portrait, accompanied by the slogans Hope and Change, of the then US presidential candidate B. Obama.
Despite never having formalized the collaboration, the day after the victory, the now elected president personally thanked the artist with a letter for his support.
OBEY STAR © Shepard Fairey AKA Obey
From that moment on, Fairey's artistic research has focused on icons of pop culture, of which the artist creates portraits drawing on an imaginary full of influences; from constructivism to liberty, passing through punk culture.
Fairey has also often collaborated with other street artists such as Banksy and Invader in the creation of large murals and billboards. With D * Face he created one of the largest murals in the world for the Maus Malaga Street Art Festival (2013). He is also one of the protagonists of the documentary on street art Exit through the gift shop directed by Banksy (2010). In addition to being a street artist, Fairey is also a successful entrepreneur; he created the clothing line Obey and the graphic and design laboratory Studio Number One.
NIAGARA X SHEPARD FAIREY – LET THERE BE DARK – RED EDITION © Shepard Fairey AKA Obey
Fairey's first art museum exhibition, titled 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'.”
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.
On September 17, 2015, the Jacob Lewis Gallery presented Shepard Fairey's exhibition "On Our Hands", his first solo opening in New York City in five years.
In 2020 the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa dedicated the Obey fidelity exhibition to the artist. The art of Shepard Fiarey.
His works are included in the collections of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Fairey currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.
Distribution by price (by Artprice)
There are multiple artworks by Shepard Fairey that are currently listed in upcoming public auctions, some of which include:
46 x 61 cm
Estimate: $555 - $832
22 Mar 2021
Gang of Four, UK and USA versions
61 x 45.5 cm
Estimate: $208 - $346
22 Mar 2021