Shepard Fairey’s widely acclaimed “Hope” poster in support of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign has gained him international renown, but an apparent misunderstanding recently caused Danish leftists to view him as a pro-government propagandist. Now Fairey and a colleague are recovering from a beating by two men who accosted him outside a Copenhagen nightclub last Saturday, accused him of being an “Obama illuminati,” and told him to “go back to America.”
“I have a black eye and a bruised rib,” Fairey told the Guardian.
Fairey explained that the attack was sparked by confusion over a mural he painted to commemorate the controversial 2007 demolition of a youth house that had been used as a base by Copenhagen’s left-wing community. The painting, on a building adjoining the still-vacant site, depicts a dove and the word “peace.”
According to Fairey, the mural was commissioned by a Copenhagen art gallery that is holding an exhibit of his work, but Danish media falsely reported that it was done for the city council. As a result, Danish activists believed it was being used to paper over continuing conflict between them and the political establishment, and it was quickly vandalized with graffiti reading “no peace” and “go home, Yankee hipster.”
Fairey has since 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.”
Fairey says he does not believe his attackers were associated with the youth house, and he told The Guardian he had not filed a police report because, “I did not know any of the people or get a great look at them, so it seemed pointless.”
“I’m not a huge fan of the cops anyway,” he added. “The only thing I could see coming out of it was further media commentary like ‘street artist whiner Shepard Fairey can’t hold it down in a fight so he snitches to the cops’.”
Photograph by Andrius Burlėga (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons