Detroit Police Have Questions About Shepard Fairey Tagging Detroit Buildings

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Detroit police have begun an investigation of artist Shepard Fairey for the various signature tags that have appeared plastered around the city on at least four public buildings this past weekend.

Fairey, originally known for his “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” (…OBEY…) sticker campaign and later the Barack Obama “Hope” poster in 2008, was invited to Detroit by the Dan Gilbert and Bedrock team to develop a mural on the side of the Compuware Building downtown. Completed on Friday, the mural has received much praise and excitement from those watching its progress develop.

To top off the excitement, Fairey displayed his exhibition: PRINTED MATTERS: Creation & Destruction, at Library Street Collective last Friday.

After hundreds of Detroiters lined Farmer St. anxiously awaiting the exhibition and additional events, the investigation leaves the question on if this matter is worth the city of Detroit’s efforts.

In an interview with 7 Action News, Fairey tells us to “keep your eyes peeled,” and does’t seem phased in admitting he’s been arrested 17 times for street tagging.

With the talents and antics of Fairey in mind, one can’t help but think back to why this critically acclaimed street artist was invited to our city in the first place – to keep street art alive, just as in the city of Detroit.

Having a presence in Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, and London, Fairey hadn’t been to Detroit in over a decade. Based on the turnout Friday night and the general hype surrounding the new mural, it’s quite obvious that Detroiters are honored to have Fairey visit the city and contribute to its revitalization through art.

Context is important. We can’t forget who is leading this town, Mayor Mike Duggan, who declared a war on graffiti just last fall as well as in 2003 as Wayne County Prosecutor. He bluntly said, “I hate graffiti,” and prosecuted about a dozen vandals and submitted requests to have various projects removed.

It’s also ironic, if this indeed the work of Fairey, as just recently his patron here in the city Dan Gilbert made a public example of three Grosse Pointe Woods teens for vandalism.

In Duggan’s eyes, if you don’t have a building owner’s permission to paint, you’re a vandal, not an artist. In Detroit’s eyes… well, you tell us.


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