Count worldwide art icon and Wynwood pioneer Shepard Fairey among those in AholSniffsClue's corner. Yesterday, during a round table discussion with local reporters plugging his collaboration with Hennessy, Fairey said the Miami street artist had no choice but to sue American Eagle, which used Ahol's trademark droopy eyes art without his permission and without compensating him.
"What American Eagle did was straight up appropriation," Fairey says. "They didn't transform [Ahol's art] in any way."
Ahol, who filed the lawsuit in New York City federal court under his real name David Anasagasti, is suing American Eagle for unlawful infringement of his intellectual property, in what could prove a landmark case for the rights of artists. "Hopefully American Eagle doesn't dig in their heels and does the right thing," Fairey added.
The 44-year-old global artist held court at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar - a venue that Fairey painted with his art, as well as designed its logo - to promote limited edition bottle he drew up for Hennessy, in what has become a great model for corporate brands meshing with street art. The French cognac maker has previously colloborated with New York City masters KAWS and Futura, as well as Brazilian twins-turned-street-artists Os Gemeos.
Hennessy takes the artists to Cognac, France, to see how the spirit is made to give them inspiration. For his bottle's label, Fairey designed an intricate, flowery quilt featuring his signature Andre the Giant face inside a star. The iconic image is also on the stem of the bottle.
In exchange for his design, Hennessy agreed to put up money for a scholarship program at Rhode Island School of Design, Fairey's alma mater. The company also agreed to help cover the costs for murals Fairey is putting up in cities that are part of the promotional tour. He also stipulated that none of the murals would be branded with Hennessy.
"I want to give Hennessy a lot of credit for respecting who I am and allowing me do what I do," Fairey said. "I do a lot of artwork based on social commentary. For this colloboration to work, it had to be a symbiotic extension of what I do."
At $32 a bottle, regular people can now afford to buy a piece of his art, Fairey explained. According to a Hennessy spokeswoman, the company made 300,000 bottles for the U.S. market.
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Fairey also talked about his love for Wynwood, the artsy neighborhood he discovered in 2004. "Back then it was a couple of shady characters, some tumbleweeds, and warehouses," he says. "To see what has happened with the art scene in Miami is incredible."
In addition to the restaurant interior walls, Fairey also painted a giant mural in the Wynwood Walls courtyard that features the neighborhood's late visionary, Tony Goldman. "Someone who looks at everything as cynically as possible will say what is happening is evil gentrification," Fairey opines. "I think there are places where artists can always go. If you want to move to new frontiers, there is Overtown. Go there and create."
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