Shepard Fairey at the MUCA exhibition

MUCA Hall First Floor

Who is Shepard Fairey?

Frank Shepard Fairey (born 1970 in Charleston, South Carolina) is a contemporary artist, graphic designer and illustrator. He graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy in Palm Springs, California. In addition to skateboarding and punk music, he became interested in art at a very early age.

Fairey is considered one of the most prolific street artists and graphic artists of his generation. He explains this by his conscious perception of human mortality. He was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 15, which always drove him to quickly put his ideas into practice.

His work is characterised by a lasting influence from many other artists, such as Barbara Kruger, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat or Robbie Conal.

”Obey Giant” sticker campaign

Shepard Fairey aka. Obey Giant became known back in 1989 with his sticker campaign “Andre the Giant Has a Posse”. At that time he was still studying at the Rhode Island School of Design. The sticker featured a portrait of a wrestler cut out of a newspaper. The action, called “Obey Giant”, developed into a worldwide campaign through the reproduction of the stickers. As an art activist, Shepard Fairey belongs to the street art movement and is in the tradition of his role model Keith Haring. Shepard Fairey uses stylistic devices from advertising, which he understands as a “seductive form of propaganda”. This visual language is very significant in his works, which he uses to criticise social and political issues. Since the accessibility of his socio-critical messages is extremely important to Shepard Fairey, they can be found both on large murals (wall paintings) in public spaces and on poster prints.

Print, design and cover

In 1992, Fairey graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Illustration. He then founded a small print shop called Alternate Graphics, which specialised in screen printing T-shirts and stickers. This was followed by the founding of the design agency BLK/MRKT with Dave Kinsey and Phillip DeWolff, which focused on guerrilla marketing and the development of high-impact marketing campaigns.

Fairey left in 2003 and launched his own agency, Studio Number One. His best-known clients include Virgin, Adidas and Nike. But his creativity knows no bounds: in 2001 he founded the fashion label “OBEY clothing”.His love of music was also always part of his creative process. He designed covers for albums by a wide variety of musicians, including Neil Young and the indie rock band Interpol. He designed covers for albums by a wide variety of musicians, including Neil Young and the indie rock band Interpol.

Shepard Fairey in the “Icons of Urban Art” exhibition in Munich

Fairey’s admiration for music legends is also reflected in the exhibition at MUCA: here, among other things, the paintings “Bob Marley” and “Jimi Hendrix” (both from 2004) can be seen.

See the works live with us –you can book tickets directly here.

The Barack Obama Portrait “Hope” by Shepard Fairey

Fairey’s most successful works in the media are the cover of Time Magazine in honour of the Person Of The Year 2011, with his depicted representative for the Arab Spring, and the “Hope” portrait of Barack Obama. With the iconic depiction of the US President, his final breakthrough came in 2008.

In addition to paintings, stencils and posters, he also uses starch paste, silkscreen and many other media for his works. Through the use of writing and images, Fairey blurs the boundaries between art and commerce. Yet Fairey is no opponent of the commercial. In his view, art and commerce need each other much more than they would like to admit.

In 2009, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston organised Fairey’s first solo exhibition “Supply and Demand” with around 200 of his works, and described him as one of the best-known and most influential street artists of our time. Nevertheless, he prefers to see his works in public space, where they unfold their social and political critique publicly and site-specifically.

Shepard Fairey’s protest against fracking on Munich’s walls

How important it is to Shepard Fairey to realise art far from commerce and to use it primarily to draw attention to current social problems is also reflected in his mural in Munich. In 2015, Fairey realised the mural in Landshuter Allee in cooperation with the non-profit art association Positive-Propaganda. On an area of 15×13 metres, he expresses here his protest against the power and influence of internationally operating oil companies on world politics and the environmental destruction that goes along with it. The mural was created under the impressions of the discussion about fracking and the conclusion of the TTIP free trade agreement between the USA and Europe, which flared up at that time.

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The museum will be closed from August 01 until September 08 due to changes in the exhibition areas

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Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art (MUCA)
Hotterstraße 12
80331 München