Shepard Fairey, the designer of the iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster was attacked and beaten up by Danish Leftists last weekend as he emerged from the opening of an exhibit of his work in a Copenhagen art gallery. From the Guardian:
Earlier this month he was involved with a controversial mural that has enraged leftwing anarchists throughout the city.
“I have a black eye and a bruised rib,” Fairey told the Guardian.
According to reports, 41-year-old Fairey and his colleague Romeo Trinidad were punched and kicked by at least two men outside the Kodboderne 18 nightclub in the early hours of last Saturday morning. Fairey claims the men called him “Obama illuminati” and ordered him to “go back to America”.
Fairey had designed a mural to commemorate
the demolition of the legendary “Ungdomshuset” (youth house) at Jagtvej 69. The building, a long-term base for Copenhagen’s leftwing community, was controversially demolished in 2007. In the intervening years it has become a potent symbol of the standoff between the establishment in Copenhagen and its radical fringe.
Fairey’s installation, painted on a building adjacent to the vacant site, depicted a dove in flight above the word “peace” and the figure “69″. But the mural appeared to reopen old wounds, with critics accusing Fairey of peddling government-funded propaganda.
To prove he isn’t a propagandist, Fairey attempted to pacify the leftists by altering his mural. According to Raw Story, he
worked with former members of the youth house to add “images of riot police and explosions,” together with a new slogan — apparently derived from the tagline used by the Anonymous hactivists — reading, “Nothing forgotten, nothing forgiven.”
At The Atlantic, Adam Clark Estes points out that Fairey “struggled to make amends with both sides,” the government and the leftist group. Estes argues that the attack on Fairey “seems to have been borne of Danish leftist radical distaste of both Obama and hipsters.”
In the eyes of the leftwing community, the local city council made Fairey their pawn in order to send an insult to the activists whose base they’d destroyed four years ago. The local Danish press reports that the council paid Fairey nearly $50,000 for the mural, the first of four planned around Copenhagen, but Fairey denies that his commission came from the city. Fairey had full creative freedom for the works, according to Henrik Chulu with the art blog Frikultur who says the murals are “part of a strategy to brand Copenhagen as progressive and ‘cool’.”
As it were, Fairey’s is not the type of cool the Danish like or want. The controversy that turned to violence in Denmark sheds a little light on how far we’ve come since the controversy that helped make Fairey’s iconic Obama poster so famous. After a escaping unscathed from a copyright battle over the photo used for the poster, Fairey has taken a lot of flak for being a sell-out. Lately, Fairey has been the star of the record-breaking Museum of Contemporary Art graffiti show in Los Angeles and making huge commissions in the process. At first glance, it might seem like Fairey’s come back to Earth. (After all, he has now literally inserted himself into fight in a foreign land over issues of social justice.) But Fairey’s as capitalist as ever. He’s even selling prints that feature the Copenhagen mural’s iconography online.
Apparently Fairey resembles Obama in trying to please everyone but ultimately pleasing no one. And they’re both sellouts too!