I was meandering on the web, when I found myself in the art section of the Obama store. If you scroll down to the sold out, iconic red, white and blue image of Obama and CHANGE poster at the bottom, you’ll see Shepard Fairey was the artist. What made me think twice about him was in his quote he wrote, “I know I have an audience of young art fans,” which I think is an interesting statement and I wanted to know more about him.
I was curious to find out more about Mr. Fairey’s company, past, art skills etc. (a la Wikipedia), but then I came upon this page: Obey Plagiarist Shepard Fairey. Essentially, the article claims that Fairey has pilfered the majority of his works from dead and living artists. He re-appropriates art and imagery into a new context, but usually changes very little or none of the art itself, and he mass markets it under the presumption that it is his own work–never giving credit to the original artist or piece. [The side by side comparisons in the article are quite incriminating. Some look like exact replicas.] And, as the article points out, not only does he do this–he profits from it. Essentially, the article claims, he is stealing both art integrity and money from the original artists.
I’m just curious where people stand on this. Is Fairey a hack who has crossed the ethical design line? Has he cut ethical corners like any other business man does? Can he claim it as his own because he has created it in a new context? If it’s not copyrighted and in the public domain–either because it’s too old or was never registered–is it fair game? Is Fairey taking advantage of the fact that is hard to patrol and penalize art/idea theft? Does the belief, that an artist has a moral obligation to other artists to respect their work, exist in other career fields or is special to the art field because our creations are personal?
I’d like to know what you all think on any of this. Also, if you read my previous post on Foundation for a Better Life, you’ll see that a similar thing happened to me–I love something, google it, then find an obscure article blasting it. And like in real life, I’m having trouble finding the final Truth on the subjects on the Web. Ahh, elusive Truth, where have you gone?
Have something to say? Tell me on Twitter @hsvandemark.