Early Works

  • (Exhibition)
  • (Information)
Shepard Fairey
15 Nov 2011 - 14 Jan 2012

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This exhibiton is part of the programm of vienna art week.


What started as a student project in 1989, grew into an art campaign that would stretch across the United States and other parts of the world. Shepard Fairey’s “André the Giant” was the most recognizable icon in the history of street art. Until 2008 when Fairey outdid himself by creating the official portrait for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. His portrait of Obama was not just important in art history, but is also the most famous American icon of the past decade.

Shepard Fairey was not the first artist to display his work in an urban environment. However, he is the first to use street art to its full potential. He is not only the first fully evolved street artist, but a true American legend. It’s important to understand the difference between graffiti and street art. The two art forms may overlap at times, however, what separates them are heritage and medium. Pure graffiti is vandalism and has no relation to the history of art. Unlike fine art, in the graffiti world rules must be obeyed! Graffiti is a form of calligraphy and it’s forbidden to use mixed media. It’s true that street art adopted graffiti’s idea of public installation with a territorial objective. However, visually and conceptually street art derives from pop art. As a result street art has a direct heritage to the history of fine art unlike graffiti.

Shepard Fairey’s main influence is Andy Warhol and not traditional graffiti. Not only did he steal Warhol’s aesthetics but also his idea of mass-producing art. It’s true Keith Haring and Basquiat were the first to make fine art in an urban environment; however, they died before street art was a community. Fairey’s idea of industrializing art for an urban environment caused a mass exposure that influenced artists all over the world. His followers formed a community, thus creating an international art movement.

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