Conceptual Realism – Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey Beginings

Shepard Fairey was born in in CharlestonSouth Carolina in February 1970. His father is a physician.

He bacame interested in the arts in 1984 and designed T-shirts and graphics for skateboard decks. In 1998 he graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy, and in 1992, graduated from Rhode Island School of Design earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts; illustration was his major.

Shepard Fairey
While in college Fairey started an underground sticker campaign (see illustration below) called “Andre the Giant has a Posse.” This evolved into the “Obey” phenomenon that went national when other artists began replicating the work.

“The Andre The Giant sticker was just a spontaneous, happy accident. I was teaching a friend how to make stencils in the summer of 1989, and I looked for a picture to use in the newspaper, and there just happened to be an ad for wrestling with Andre The Giant and I told him that he should make a stencil of it. He said ‘Nah, I’m not making a stencil of that, that’s stupid!” but I thought it was funny so I made the stencil and I made a few stickers and the group of guys I was hanging out with always called each other The Posse, so it said Andre The Giant Has A Posse, and it was sort of appropriated from hip-hop slang – Public Enemy, NWA and Ice-T were all using the word.”  – Shepard Faire


From 1997–2003 Fairey was a partner (along with Dave Kinsey and Phillip DeWolff) in the design studio BLK/MRKT. The company created stickers and posters used in guerilla marketing. Clients included Pepsi, Hasbro and Netscape. Fairey is said to have designed the red dinosaur for Mozilla (makers of Firefox and Thunderbird web-browser and email application); the dinosaur later became a mascot of sorts of Mozilla.

In 2003 Fairey and his wife Amanda founded Studio Number One which produced album covers for the Black Eyed Peas’ , The Smashing Pumpkins’, Flogging Molly’s, Led Zeppelin and Anthrax.

In June 2007, Fairey opened his first one-man show entitled “E Pluribus Venom”, at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York. The show was featured in a The New York Timesarticle in the Arts section of the paper.

In 2008 Fairey designed a series of posters in support of Barack Obama’s presidential bid which were appropriated by the campaign with Fairey’s permission. The original tag line for the poster was “Prosperity,” but the Obama campaign changed it to “Hope” with Fairey’s full approval.

The original “Hope” portrait eventually made it’s way US National Portrait Gallery where it is now part of the permanent collection.

Fairey’s first museum collection went on display in Boston at the Institute of Contemporary Art in the summer of 2009. The show was aptly named “Supply and Demand” and featured his works and a book.


Art Form
Of all the names for this particular art movement; LowbrowPop Surreal, etcetera; Fairey’s works are often characterized as Street Art.