On Fri. June 19 the city of Detroit issued an arrest warrant for Shepard Fairey, citing two counts of malicious destruction that hold a maximum of five years in jail with fines that could exceed $10,000. According to the Detroit Free Press, police say that Fairey illegally put up nine of his posters between May 16-May 22 causing $9,105.54 in damages.
Apparently Fairey gave ample warning of his planned activities before coming to Detroit, telling the Free Press earlier in May that he would “do stuff on the street without permission.” Detroit police say that they will arrest Fairey next time he’s in Detroit, unless he turns himself in first.
A native of Charleston, Fairey’s work can be seen around town, most notably on the large Power & Glory murals that grace the College Lodge and the building located in the same complex as Butcher & Bee and Highwire Distilling on Upper King St. Fairey created these pieces during 2014’s Spoleto festival, where his work was also on display at the Halsey Institute. You can currently check out two of Fairey’s pieces, Music by David Lynch and Oh Susanna, at the Terrace Theater, where they are on permanent loan from the artist.
Fairey traveled to Detroit to work on the largest mural of his career, a mural on the side of One Campus Martius, a building located in the heart of Detroit. In a May 27 post on his website obeygiant.com, Fairey sang Detroit’s praises, acknowledging it as a city that has “so many beautiful textures, old signs, great architecture, and derelict spaces for the renegade artist to fill.”
This isn’t Fairey’s first run-in with the law. In Denver in 2008 Fairey was charged with “interference and posting unauthorized posters” at the Democratic National Convention. Fairey spent 17 hours in jail. In 2011 Fairey pleaded guilty to three charges of vandalism in Boston. According to a 2011 City Paper article, Fairey has been arrested 14 times in his career.
In Feb. 2012 Fairey admitted to fabricating documents and lying in a civil lawsuit brought against him by the Associated Press in 2009. The lawsuit claimed that Fairey used a 2006 AP photograph as the basis for his now-famous Hope poster. Fairey initially denied that he used the photo and after realizing that he was mistaken, he created false documents to hide his use of the original photograph. Fairey was ultimately sentenced to two years of probation and 300 hours of community service.
Interestingly enough, Fairey’s own (legally commissioned) works have been vandalized by other graffiti artists. In “An Important Message from Shepard Fairey,” a message posted on his website after 2012’s copyright lawsuit was finalized, Fairey acknowledges the flexibility he feels artists should be awarded: “I believe in intellectual property rights and the rights of photographers, but I also believe artists need latitude to create inspired by real world things, just as news organizations need to use exception to copyright in order to report the news.”
Fairey is currently out of the country and cannot be reached for comment.