Shepard Fairey: Controversial Contemporary Street Artist

Emily Brown

Frank Shepard Fairey is an American contemporary street artist and graphic designer, who emerged from the skateboarding scene. He was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina and lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He became involved with art in 1984 when he started to place his drawings on skateboards and T-shirts.

Obey, Amsterdam Centraal

In 1988 Shepard Fairey graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy in California, and in 1992 he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design. Fairey first became known for his André the Giant Has a Posse (OBEY) sticker campaign, which he launched while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design. The project depicted images of the late professional wrestler, André the Giant, accompanied by slogans like “This is Your God,” and appeared in public spaces in major cities around the globe. The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston calls him one of today’s best-known and most influential street artists.

Obey, Amsterdam Centraal

Fairey has been involved in various controversies, mainly related to the allegations that he uses other artists’ work without permission. Critics have also accused Fairy of selling-out to produce his Obey clothing line, manipulating politically charged imagery, and hastening the exploitation of street culture. However, his imagery remains iconic.

Obama, of course, won the election. Fairey spoke about the production of the poster saying, “I wanted to make an image that deracialized Obama, where he’s not a black man, but a nationalized man.” However, because the poster had been distributed independently and illegally by Fairey, the Obama campaign declined to have any direct affiliation with it. Fairey did say in interviews that he was in communication with campaign officials during the period immediately following the poster’s release. The street artist distributed 300,000 stickers and 500,000 posters during the campaign, and in February 2008, he received a letter of thanks from Obama for his contribution to the campaign. In January 2009, the Hope poster was obtained by the US National Portrait Gallery and was unveiled on January 17, 2009 as part of the gallery’s permanent collection. Fairey received the Brit Insurance Design of the Year Award in 2009 for his Hope poster.

Shepard Fairey and George Clinton at the Wynwood Walls Project in Miami, 2010
Shepard Fairey wall art in Boston
Obey, Amsterdam Centraal
Obey, Amsterdam Centraal
Shepard Fairey ‘Peace’ wall art

Fairey’s Hope poster for the presidential elections set the stages for Fairey to launch his first solo show, titled Supply and Demand, at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Fairey’s work is extremely diverse and combines elements of pop art, graffiti and Marxist theory. Fairey has been involved in both solo and group exhibitions in many different places. He has held solo exhibitions in 2000 in Capsule, Birmingham, England, in 2003 in the Kantor Gallery Window, New York City and in 2007 in the Merry Karnosky Gallery, Los Angeles, California. He has participated in group exhibitions in 2001 at CPOP Gallery, Detroit, Michigan, and in 2006 at the OXOP Gallery, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Poster of Barack Obama by Shephard Fairey, 2008
Obey, Amsterdam Centraal
Obey, Amsterdam Centraal
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article