Controversy-courting political street artist Shepard Fairey’s Occupy Wall Street poster may have been aiming to inspire hope, but it’s only resulted in annoyance so far. Fairey has changed his OWS poster, which borrows imagery from his 2008 Obama “Hope” poster, after organizers complained that his art was undermining their mission.
Fairey’s Obama poster became the iconic image of the 2008 campaign. A version of it is in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. The image also became the subject of a lawsuit from the Associated Press, which owned the copyright to the photograph that inspired Fairey’s work. Though Fairey argued that his poster was covered under fair use, he also bungled his case by destroying evidence on his computer. Fairey and AP settled the suit.
His original Occupy image cribs the style and form of the “Hope” poster, but puts one of Occupy’s ever-present Guy Fawkes masks in its place. Where Obama’s “O” logo was, a similar round logo says “We are the 99%.” Underneath, text reads: “Mister President we HOPE you’re on our side.” Fairey made the image independently, as a show of support for the movement.
The problem is that it’s the wrong kind of support. Occupy Wall Street isn’t affiliated with any politicians, as per their general assembly’s “Statement of Autonomy,” which states, “We wish to clarify that Occupy Wall Street is not and never has been affiliated with any established political party, candidate or organization. Our only affiliation is with the people.”
According to the Village Voice, Fairey received a letter from a nameless OWS representative, who asked him to change the poster.
I myself and several other organizers cannot in any way be connected to this design. The 99% movement is wholly non-partisan and we have been repeatedly attacked as being a front for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Our movement is about uniting people, from all different walks of life and all different political viewpoints, against the global financial elite who have bought control of our government through campaign finance, lobbying and the revolving door.
Amid accusations that he is out of touch with the movement, Fairey changed his poster to remove the references to the president. It now reads “We are the HOPE,” but looks otherwise the same. Fairey replied to OWS on his blog, telling them that he, too, is disappointed with Obama. “I have no interest in pandering to Obama. I see my image as a reminder to him that he has alienated his populist progressive supporters. If the threat of not being re-elected pushes Obama to do more to reform Wall St. etc. … then I’m all for that!” he wrote.
Fairey’s previous effort towards OWS was better-received. He designed an invitation to the movement’s Times Square block party which featured an image that resembled Angela Davis, and was the first famous artist to lend his talent to the movement.