This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 17,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Artist Shepard Fairey has plead guilty to criminal contempt due to using fake evidence in his 2009 lawsuit against the Associated Press (AP). Shepard Fairey has long been considered one of the strongest advocates for wide interpretations of 'fair use'. I can recall dozens of art writers who supported Fairey when his iconic Obama 'HOPE' poster came under fire over allegations of copyright infringement involving an AP owned image of Obama. At the time -- supporters of Fairey 'painted' the AP as being a controlling corporate entity... and championed Fairey as a symbol of creative freedom. It will be interesting to see if those same writers take back some of their support now that Fairey has acknowledged his wrongdoing in court.
Shepard Fairey's deceptive actions have made a mockery of 'fair use' and creative freedom. After all, Fairey waved the banner of creative freedom throughout his legal problems with the Associated Press. He rallied support from within the art world -- as well as from Free Culture advocates. In fact, at one point Fairey claimed that he was 'fighting' the AP for the rights of all artists -- all while attempting to 'stack the deck' in his favor... which, in my opinion, goes against the concept of law and the rights of all. It forces one to wonder just what kind of system Shepard Fairey truly supports beyond the message of his artwork.
One could suggest that Shepard Fairey 'stabbed' his supporters in the back while at the same time 'eviscerating' his own principles. After all, his deception was not an issue of innocent flubbing -- it was a calculated 'assault' on our legal system... and not one spurred by the spirit of rebellion -- no, this 'attack' was orchestrated merely to secure his profit. Fairey may have got away with it had it not been for one of his employees discovering the files that he thought had been deleted.
In addition to the above, I find it ironic that an artist who calls for more transparency within big business and politics would stoop so low as to try and deceive the court of law, the public and his own supporters. True, we -- the public -- may not be able to trust some of the corporations, politicians and other societal influences that Shepard Fairey has 'called out' with his artwork... but apparently we can't trust him either. How is Fairey any different than the corrupted Wall Street tycoon or the politician who has something to hide? Food for thought.
Fairey attempted to destroy evidence linking his Obama poster to the AP owned image of Obama, he created false documentation pointing to another source image -- and even went as far as to arrange for a witness to support his false claims. He did all of this while presenting himself legitimately among peers and supporters. In a sense, one could suggest that Fairey has become the type of individual his artwork often speaks out against. Thus, his deception takes away from the message of his artwork.
Shepard Fairey has stressed that he is ashamed for what he has done -- and that the burden -- prior to being exposed by one of his employees -- was difficult. It is hard to tell if his acknowledgment of wrongdoing is sincere after all of his deceptive behavior. After all, he lied to his attorney, to the judge, to his employees, to his supporters, to his peers and apparently lied to his wife about the situation as well. We -- the public -- have criticized CEOs and politicians for less. Again, it will be interesting to see how his supporters -- specifically those within the art blogosphere -- will approach his deception.
In closing, Shepard Fairey may end up serving six months in prison for said deception -- which hopefully will be enough time for him to get his life back on track. As for his artwork -- all I can say is that it is difficult to take art that calls out liars and frauds seriously when the man behind the 'visual message' happens to be just as deceptive. He has made a mockery of 'fair use' and creative freedom. Shepard Fairey has damaged his legacy -- there is no denying that. That is something he will have to live with (and something other artists should learn from).
Take care, Stay true,