Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey

American artist Shepard Fairey, responsible for the iconic Barack Obama “HOPE” portrait, has roots in street art and leftwing politics, and nowadays runs a successful fashion and urban sports design studio. Read more

Shepard Fairey was born in 1970 and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. He became involved in the art world in 1984 when he began customizing skateboards and T-shirts designs. In 1988 he graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy, and in 1992 he gained a Fine Arts BA in Illustration from Rhode Island School of Design.

Shepard Fairey shot to fame as the graphic artist behind a 2008 iconic poster of Barack Obama, a portrait labeled simply "HOPE", in a style that has been described as Andy Warhol meets Socialist Realism.

With permission from the staff of Obama's presidential campaign, Shepard Fairey began distributing the "HOPE" image in January of 2008. A year later, with Obama in the White House, Shepard Fairey's poster was officially displayed in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Around the same time the Associated Press declared Shepard Fairey's poster was based on a 2006 photo taken by the AP's Manny Garcia, but Shepard Fairey filed a pre-emptive lawsuit.

Shepard Fairey was already well known among graffiti artists and fans, thanks to one of his early works of guerilla art, an impromptu stencil design based on an ad for professional wrestler Andre the Giant. Shepard Fairey made stickers of the image in the late 1980’s, along with the scrawl Andre the Giant has a posse, and the image went viral, spreading far and wide through urban America, on street signs, billboards and walls.

Mixing left-wing politics with ‘appropriated’ images and bold graphic design, Shepard Fairey now works as a fine artist and advertising designer, with a gallery in Los Angeles and business ventures that dip into publishing, fashion and urban sports. Supporters call what he does ‘appropriation art’, but detractors call it plagiarism, and Shepard Fairey 's success has put him in the middle of a legal and artistic debate about who owns what when it comes to images in public.

Shepard Fairey has appeared in the documentary films Andre the Giant Has a Posse (by Helen Stickler, first distributed in 1997) and Bomb It! (2007), and his work has been documented in the book Supply and Demand.

Just before the opening of his first solo exhibition, at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art in February of 2009, Shepard Fairey was arrested on an outstanding warrant for vandalism (tagging).


Shepard Fairy working on a new mural on the facade of the Line Hotel in Los Angeles's Koreatown. The 35 x 100 ft piece entitled 'Peace Tree' was unveiled earlier today (17/07/14) Be sure to check it out you lucky Angelenos!