When Street Art becomes High
The American street artist Shepard Fairey’s work is so well-known that many museums have already exhibited his creations that are now considered High Art. The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, to name a few, have all shown Fairey’s beautiful artwork. If you haven’t bumped yet into an "Obey Giant" or some other creation of Shepard Fairey on the walls in New York, L.A. or other countless cities, the street artist is now making his creations accessible to all. His most extensive solo exhibition, "Damaged,” is now available for download so that you can take a virtual tour of the show in the comfort of your own house through a mobile app.
The L.A.-based graphic designer and street artist have always used his art as a platform for his many social, political environmental and humanitarian activism and campaigns. Shepard Fairey began being noticed in the early 90’s, when he was still an art student, because of the “Obey Giant” graffitis, posters and stickers with the face of the wrestler Andre the Giant, that appeared mysteriously on the walls of several cities around the world, becoming an international street art phenomenon. Fairey explains that “the sticker has no meaning but exists only to cause people to react, to contemplate and search for meaning in the sticker.”
Through his signature giant murals, posters and mixed media canvases inspired in the aesthetics of the Russian propaganda, Fairey uses beauty to draw people’s attention to the world’s problems. He says: My favourite art allows viewers some escape from their lives and a connection with something outside themselves, but at the same time encourages thought and engagement – so I’ve always sought to capture that balance of evocative and provocative.”
Besides all the issues and causes that he promotes through his art pieces, the American artist also works with several non-profit organisations; for example, he’s on the advisory board of “Reaching to Embrace the Arts," which provides art supplies to priority schools. He’s also on the board of the “Music is Revolution Foundation,” which supports music education in public schools. Fairey thinks - and we couldn’t agree more - that “the power of art is that it can impact people emotionally and lead them to address things intellectually that otherwise, they would just ignore”.
All photos via Shepard Fairey
In July this year, Adidas and the street artist, who grew up in the 80’s, under the influence of punk-rock and hip-hop and links his love for skateboarding to his art, launched the collab The Shepard Fairey x Adidas Samba. The white sneakers have three different Fairey logos on the heel, including the iconic Obey Giant logo. The sneakers come with a “starters kit” that contains stencils, spray paint, a bucket, stickers, and a skateboard deck.
On Fairey's homepage, there’s a world map where you can follow the latest sightings of his work on the walls of cities, from the USA to as far as Thailand or Denmark. You can also download free posters to print, but Fairey asks: “Please use common sense and consideration when applying stickers or other propaganda materials. Giant is designed to provoke thought about the mechanics of the system we live in, not to destroy it. Everyone has to live here.”