nov 27


Shepard "Obey" Fairey has always seemed like one of those anomalies in the indie fame machine. On the occasion of his L.A. solo show, here's an essay showing his plagiarist tendencies. UPDATE: in the comments, Jeff Croft makes the artist-free-to-appropriate argument.


I'm a big Fairey fan, so I'm sure I'm biased, but: I don't see why it strikes anyone as surprising that Fairey uses other people's imagery in his work.

To me, Fairey is much more graphic designer than he is artist. Us designers make quite a little habit of compiling graphics, type, photos, and the like from disparate sources into new compositions. It's what we do.

Fairey shouldn't try to pawn off the appropriations of other people's work as his own any more than Dr. Dre should claim that he wrote the musical hook for California Love (he didn't, it's from Joe Cocker's "Woman to Woman") or Notorious B.I.G. should claim he created the groove for Big Poppa (it's a sample from The Isley Brother's "Between the Sheets").

Fairey samples, just like musical artists do all the time. What's the big deal?

posted by Jeff Croft at 8:55 PM on November 27, 2007

Can Shepard Fairey honestly be described as an artist who can critically assess the "unholy union of government and big business," or offer comments on the "underpinnings of the capitalist machine"?

Artists are totally free to appropriate. T-shirt and postcard salesmen aren't.

posted by taylor at 9:28 PM on November 27, 2007

> T-shirt and postcard salesmen aren't.

What about music salesmen?

posted by Jeff Croft at 10:09 PM on November 27, 2007

This was an interesting article, but I wish he hadn't used the loaded word "plagiarism," which inevitably gives rise to the banal (sorry Jeff) discussion about what artists can and can't appropriate.

Instead, I wish the author had focused on what Fairey's actually trying to say with his art, and whether his appropriations are being put to good use. The article has an interesting thesis at its center: the author believes that Fairey's art is symptomatic of a creative bankruptcy combined with a raging egocentricity. Frankly, I was hoping for something more along the lines of Charlie Brooker's takedown of Banksy:,,1878555,00.html

Unfortunately, the Fairey article is overshadowed by the author's clear anger about the plagiarism issue, dooming discussion of the article to tired Doctrovian arguments about copyright, remix culture, and mash-ups.

posted by Johnny at 1:23 AM on November 28, 2007

Couldn't agree more, Johnny. Well-said.

posted by Jeff Croft at 1:56 AM on November 28, 2007

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