Politics

A brief look: Obama poster-boy Shepard Fairey runs into Denmark trouble

By Theresa Mallinson 19 August 2011

Shepard Fairey's peace mural in Copenhagen is right next door to a Youth House that was demolished back in 2007. When local media erroneously reported that Fairley was being funded by the same city council that tore down the house, this led to his mural – and himself – being attacked. By THERESA MALLINSON.

You may not know the name Shepard Fairey, but you will know his iconic “Hope” poster of US President Barack Obama. Fairey’s use of an AP image on the poster led to the news agency bringing a copyright-infringement lawsuit against him, which was ultimately settled out of court. In a statement earlier this year, the AP said the two parties had agreed to share rights to the poster, although “neither side surrenders its view of the law”.

Fairey came out of that fight pretty well – it’s not many people who can take on a global news agency and win, even only sort-of. But he didn’t fare quite so well in his latest fracas, when at least three men punched and kicked him and a colleague outside the V1 art gallery in Copenhagen, after his exhibition opening.

What was the unidentified men’s beef with Fairey? As part of his exhibition, he painted seven murals around Copenhogen. One of these was the Peace Mural, which displays a stylised dove Fairey says is “about global peace and my opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan”. The site of the mural is Jagtveg 69 (Street 69), previously home to the Ungdomshuset (Youth House), a hangout for the city’s lefties, until it was controversially demolished in 2007.

So, when a local newspaper reported that Fairey had been commissioned by the city of Copenhagen to create the mural – that would be the same city council that destroyed the house – Danish anarchists were not very happy. Thing is, the paper got its facts wrong: the wall next to the Umgdomshuset site that hosts the mural is nothing to do with the city; he was offered the space by the building’s owner.

In the true spirit of reconciliation, after the mural had been defaced with paint bombs and graffiti reading: “No peace, go home Yankee hipster”, Fairey hooked up with art collective RaxArt, which added a scene of hostile riot police at the bottom of the artwork, providing a new context for the paint bomb. It also now includes the graffiti “not forgotten, not forgiven”, which was the slogan of the Umgdomshuset prior to its inhabitants’ eviction.

Sadly, that’s not the end of the story, as the mural has subsequently been fire-extinguisher bombed. Seems that there are some people who are taking “not forgotten, not forgiven”, rather literally – and not caring if their target is a legitimate one. DM




Read more:

  • Obey Copenhagen Post 2 (bad) on Shepard Fairey’s website, Obey Giant;
  • Shepard Fairey beaten up after spat over controversial Danish mural, in The Guardian.

Photo: Reuters.

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