Shepherding in a new era
Everyone is trying to be like Shepard Fairey.
The original of Fairey’s iconic image of President Elect Barack Obama now belongs to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. And that’s a first for a Presidential portrait since the Smithsonian Institution isn’t in the habit of collecting likenesses of the Commander-In-Chief either during his term or before it even begins. I guess I now have my answer to the question I posed last summer about where our hypnotic brain trash will go!
And, not to be outdone by a street artist from Los Angeles, all the usual (and unusual) suspects are trying to catch up with Fairey. I’ve already written about Ron English’s attempt, but it seems that few artists have not tried their hands at making an Obama.*
Recently, another California artist, Ben Hazard of Oakland, hazarded something new by drawing the whole Obama family and, in doing so, he won big. Hazard’s work will go with Obama to the White House. But William Everly has to be the one who tried the hardest to measure up to Fairey’s success. Just this last week, the New Jersey artist unveiled a piece called Hope, depicting Obama being sworn in (created pre-inauguration in order to make sure he’s ahead of the curve this time), and reproduced as a series of affordable giclee prints.
Still, the most surprising fallout of Fairey’s work, hit me on my recent adventures in France. When I arrived in Paris on 2 December 2008, I had no idea I would be landing in the middle of a mystery!
Near the Gare Montparnasse in Paris, I stumbled across a Fairey-ized version of the French President Nicholas Sarkozy. The image had various captions: making corporations that pollute pay? producing clean and sustainable energy for Europe? saving each household 1000 euros a year? But always finished with: “Yes, we can!”
Greenpeace eventually claimed responsibility for the “SarkObama” campaign, but not before the leader of UMP’s** youth section Benjamin Lancar responded to media queries about who had papered the President’s face all over Paris: “we would have liked it to be us, because we like the message!”
Several members of the French President’s camp have compared the election of a black president in the US with the French vote for Sarkozy, who is the son of a Hungarian immigrant…
...but, in a country where this kind of packaging is found in every supermarket today, is it possible for Sarkozy to be France’s Obama?
*I’m certain that Obama art will be a genre unto itself in future art historical writing: installation art, performance art, abstract art, landscape art, figurative art, and—the 21st century’s contribution—Obama art!
**Sarkozy’s party, the Union for a Popular Movement.