Yesterday, British newspaper the Guardian reported that artist Shepherd Fairey was attacked after a gallery opening in Copenhagen. The 41-year-old artist gained a cult following for his "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" sticker campaign and then crossed over into mainstream consciousness via his iconic Barack Obama "Hope" poster. He also has extensive murals up at Wynwood Walls.
He recently completed a controversial mural commemorating the demolition of "Ungdomshuset," or youth house, a meeting place for Denmark's young radicals. Fairey painted a dove in flight above the word peace and the number 69 on a building adjacent to the vacant site.
As a result, he and a friend were punched and kicked by two men outside a Danish nightclub, resulting in a black eye and a bruised rib. He told the newspaper that the men called him "Obama illuminati" and said he should "go back to America."
This isn't the first time Fairey's work has landed him in hot water. Critics, such as Miami expatriate and San Francisco Bay Guardian correspondent Erick Lyle,
have decried the graphic designer for appropriating graffiti and street
art for insincere political messages. In 2009, his signature Obama
poster came under fire from the Associated Press for copyright
While the physical response to his art was extreme, the critical reaction to Fairey's mural in Copenhagen has greatly resembled that which he has seen before. The youth house, Jagvteg 69, was controversially demolished in 2007 and has since become symbolic of Denmark's radical left's fight against the establishment.
As reported in the Guardian, local activist Eskil Andreas Halberg told progressive Danish website Modkraft that Fairey's art "is being used politically to end the conflict in a certain way; 'we're all friends now, right?'"
His logic suggests that Fairey, often a verbal champion of seemingly left-wing ideals, is being used by the government as a historical seal on their controversial action against Jagvteg 69.
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We've since heard from Fairey's rep, who states that the Danish mural was in no way commissioned by the government. The artist's Copenhagen gallery asked local officials for permission to use a publicly available wall space. As Fairey tells the Huffington Post:
Another seemingly unrelated location I was offered was a wall directly next to where the former 69 Youth House (I was informed that the Youth House been since torn down). It was a great, almost 70-foot high wall, and with my connection to punk culture and my history with art at the location, it seemed like a great wall. I was asked to submit a design for approval by the building owner, so I decided to keep the image true to my beliefs, but uncontroversial (so I thought) and presented a Peace Dove in target concept.
Fairey goes on to say the dove was an allusion to global peace and was surprised when "No peace, go home Yankee hipster" was painted on the mural. Realizing the heated terrain he had entered, he offered the youth house the bottom third of the mural space for its own artwork. Despite the collaboration, Fairey was assaulted on the way out of the afterparty for the opening.