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Artist finds new avenue for work

October 24, 2003|Scott Timberg

Guerrilla artist Shepard Fairey has resorted to scaling fences, sneaking through alleys and pasting over billboards to get his imagery to the public without the traditional art-world network.

Now the L.A.-based Fairey has found a new way to get his art out: through a glossy magazine ad for the Mini Cooper. The ad suggests several options for roof designs -- among them an American flag, a Union Jack and the "Obey Giant" icon the artist made famous on street signs and telephone poles while an undergraduate at the Rhode Island School of Design.

"It was a good choice for art that feels urban and somewhat edgy," says Ronny Northrop, the art director for the project. "And the design is just so cool and simple. It fits the roof space perfectly."

Has the anarchist gone mainstream?

Yes and no, he says. Turns out the image, for which Fairey says he was paid $2,000, is intended to show consumers that they can dream up cool customized roofs. You can't go to a dealership and order the Obey Giant -- which Fairey says suits him fine.

"As much as I think it would be hilarious to have planes and helicopters looking down on my giant, I'd be hesitant to license it," he says. "I don't want to turn it into a sub-brand of a major corporation."

Fairey currently runs a mid-Wilshire design and marketing agency called Studio Number One. "But I want to keep a connection to people who think they're underground and anti-corporate," he says.

-- Scott Timberg

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