Shepard Fairey cleans up

Last Monday, The Eastsider LA posted about how Shepard Fairey has buffed some tags off the outside of his studio and put an anti-graffiti coating on it. Here’s a bit of what they said:

After pleading guilty to vandalism charges in Boston over his guerrilla art tactics, artist Shepard Fairey had to deal with acts of vandalism closer to home. A few days ago workers sandblasted the brick exterior of his Echo Park studio, gallery and ad agency – called Studio Number One – and applied a shiny layer of anti-graffiti coating to the walls.

And Fairey responded to their emails by explaining his reasoning:

“When graff seeped into the raw brick it was very difficult to clean,” said Fairey, creator of the Obama “Hope” poster, in an email forwarded by one of his employees. “The building is historic and I love and want to protect the brick. The city was never any help with removal. Graffiti is par for the course.”

“Obviously I have experience with graff,” said Fairey, “and there is not much point hitting a spot that will be cleaned immediately.”

Interesting story, makes you think, but that’s not the end of it. Fairey then responded to that post with a longer email which you can read in full on The Eastsider LA.

Besides attempting to blast the blog for not being objective (Surely not even the “best” blogs are objective. That’s what makes them so interesting and it comes with the territory), Fairey ends up making a number of good points. As he says:

I’m not mad at the graff artists who have hit our building, I just like the brick unadorned. I’ve always been a champion of street art and graffiti in the same way I’m a champion of free speech. I think it is important for people to be able to speak freely, but if I’m watching a channel whose content is not my cup of tea I may choose to change the channel. It does not make me an opponent of free speech. Preferring my brick unadorned does not make me anti-graffiti. Every time I put a piece of art on the street I know it may be cleaned. That is the nature of the art form.

While I’ve occasionally been critical of Fairey on Vandalog, I think this time he is making some valid points. For one thing, I’ve never met a graffiti writer or a street artist who expects their work to be there forever, and as much of a fan of street art as I am, I’d rather commission some artist to paint the walls of my house than leave it free for anybody to bomb (PS, my address is *****) and I’m sure most people would say the same thing.

If writers still want to paint on Fairey’s building they might as well, they just need to be aware that what they paint is going to get cleared away instantly. And Fairey’s got every right to do that. At least, that’s my take, but I’d love to see some comments from other people.

Via LA Daily