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Shepard Fairey, Arrested for 15th Time, Also Accused of Plagiarism by Associated Press
A vendor shows a shirt with the image of United States President Barack Obama at Sukhumvit Road, in the center of Bangkok. The image of Obama was designed by street artist Shepard Fairey, who admitted that he was inspired by an image made by Associated Press photographer Mannie Garcia. Photo: EFE/Barbara Walton

BOSTON.- Street artist Shepard Fairey was arrested last night in Boston on two warrants after he allegedly tagged property in Boston with graffitti based on his Andre the Giant street art campaign, reported the Boston Herald.

"Fairey, a 38-year-old known for his countercultural style, was arrested on two outstanding warrants and was being held at a police station, according to a police official with knowledge of the arrest who requested anonymity", according to the Boston Globe.

A crowd of about 750 people were waiting for Fairey to appear at the event last night, some paying up to $500 for tickets on Craigslist, when they were told he was arrested, the Globe said.

The artwork is based on a copyrighted photograph taken in April 2006 by Mannie Garcia while on assignment for the Associated Press. Fairey feels his use of it falls within the legal definition of fair use. Lawyers for both sides are currently in discussions seeking an amicable agreement.

"The Associated Press has determined that the photograph used in the poster is an AP photo and that its use required permission," the AP's director of media relations, Paul Colford, said in a statement. "AP safeguards its assets and looks at these events on a case-by-case basis. We have reached out to Mr. Fairey's attorney and are in discussions. We hope for an amicable solution."

"We have reached out to Mr. Fairey's attorney and are in discussions. We hope for an amicable solution," says the AP's director of media relations, Paul Colford, in a statement.

"We believe fair use protects Shepard's right to do what he did here," said Fairey's lawyer to the AP, Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project at Stanford University and a lecturer at the Stanford Law School. "It wouldn't be appropriate to comment beyond that at this time because we are in discussions about this with the AP."

It seems Mr. Fairey has become so famous that he now has a PR agency to look after his image. This past month, ArtDaily contacted Julia Axelrod from Evolutionary Media Group so that an article could be written about Mr. Fairey┤s image of Obama for inauguration day. Ms. Axelrod asked co-worker Olivia Perches, from Obey Giant Art Inc. to get in touch with ArtDaily┤s editor. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until Ms. Perches asked for a fee. After being told that ArtDaily did not pay fees to artists for the use of their work or that ArtDaily does not receive payment from artists for publishing their work, so as not to confuse readers, she agreed to supply the image. The day after this she got in contact with ArtDaily┤s editor and she said that she was too busy to supply the image.

The Institute of Contemporary Art opened an exhibition of Fairey┤s work on February 6. The 20-year retrospective, the first solo show of the artist's work, explores the breadth of Fairey's career. In addition to the now iconic Obama poster, the exhibition includes approximately 200 works, ranging from Fairey's renowned Obey Giant stencil to screen prints of political revolutionaries and rock stars, to recent mixed-media works and a major new commission for the ICA. Pedro H. Alonzo, a longtime champion of Fairey's work in the U.S. and Europe, is the ICA's guest curator of the exhibition. In complement to the exhibition, Fairey will be creating public art works at sites around Boston.

"Shepard Fairey's powerful and varied body of work has reached into all aspects of our visual culture, from political posters to T-shirts and album covers, and now museum installations," says Jill Medvedow, Director of the ICA/Boston. "His integration of design, popular culture, and politics places him in the current of artistic and cultural forces that shape our world today."

"The content of Fairey's work is a call to action about hierarchies and abuses of power, politics and the commodification of culture," says exhibition curator Pedro Alonzo. "Fairey is committed to creating work that has meaning for his audience-by using familiar cultural iconography that people can relate to and by constantly bringing his work into the public sphere."

Fairey gained international recognition in the early 1990s with his Obey Giant campaign, seen on streets around the world on countless stickers and posters that Fairey produced and disseminated. Since then, Fairey has created works of art of all types-on the street, as part of commercial collaborations, and, increasingly, for gallery presentation. Fairey has broken many of the spoken and unspoken rules of contemporary art and culture. Working as a "fine" artist, commercial artist, graphic designer and businessman, Fairey actively resists categorization. Through the Obey project, he has created a cultural phenomenon, but more importantly, a new model of art making and production. He builds off precedents set by artists such as Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, as he disrupts expectations about art and business, and muddies the distinctions between fine art and commercial art.

Shepard Fairey: Supply and Demand features work in a wide variety of media: screen prints, stencils, stickers, rubylith illustrations, collages, and works on wood, metal and canvas. These works reflect the diversity of Fairey's aesthetic, displaying a variety of influences and references such as Soviet propaganda, psychedelic rock posters, images of Americana, and the layering and weathering of street art. While his provocative imagery draws in his audience, Fairey uses his work as a platform to make statements on social issues important to him. The artist explains his driving motivation: "The real message behind most of my work is 'question everything.'"

This landmark exhibition, co-curated by guest curator Pedro Alonzo and Emily Moore Bouillet, former assistant curator at the ICA, examines prevailing themes in Fairey's work. "Propaganda," "Portraiture," and "Hierarchies of Power" look at the many ways the artist urges critical thinking about the images that surround us, whether advertising, portraits of heroes, or symbols of wealth and power. In the works grouped under "War and Peace," Fairey, responding to recent U.S. military operations, reveals the many faces of conflict. "Stylized" investigates Fairey's Warhol-like blurring of popular culture and fine art, while "Music" illustrates some of the artist's earliest cultural influences. "Question Everything" presents the myriad forms and vehicles for the artist's work, whether stickers, large-scale murals, or framed work on gallery walls.

The portrait that came to symbolize the historic campaign of President-elect Barack Obama is now on display at the National Portrait Gallery. The piece was acquired by the museum through the generosity of Washington, D.C., art collectors Heather and Tony Podesta, in honor of Tony Podesta’s mother, the late Mary K. Podesta. This large-scale mixed-media stenciled collage is on view in the “New Arrivals” exhibition, on the museum’s first floor.

Fairey’s Barack Obama “Hope” poster became the iconic campaign image for the first African American president of the United States. Early in 2008, Fairey produced his first Obama portrait, with a stenciled face, visionary upward glance, and the caption “Progress.” In this second version, Fairey repeated the heroic pose and patriotic color scheme, substituting the slogan “Hope.”

The artist’s intention that the image be widely reproduced and “go viral” on the Internet exceeded his greatest expectations. The campaign sold 50,000 official posters; a San Francisco streetwear company produced T-shirts; grassroots organizations disseminated hundreds of thousands of stickers; and a free downloadable version generated countless repetitions. Although the reproductions rarely convey the elegant surface patterning seen in this original collage, they forged an unprecedented and powerful icon for Obama’s historic campaign.

Shepard Fairey’s work is represented by the Irvine Contemporary gallery in Washington, D.C. His art is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In 2006, Gingko Press published a monograph on the artist’s career, “Obey: Supply and Demand.”

Shepard Fairey was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1970 and currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He received a BA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1992. He has had recent solo exhibitions at White Walls Gallery, San Francisco (2008); Merry Karnowsky Gallery, Los Angeles (2007); Jonathan Levine Gallery, New York (2007); Stolen Space, London (2007); and Galerie Magda Danysz, Paris (2006). His work is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; and the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. Fairey is also the founder of Studio Number One, a graphic design company.

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