Obama Artist Arrested On Graffiti Claims

The iconic image of the Obama campaign was created by street artist Shepard Fairey. CBS

A street artist famous for his red, white and blue "Hope" posters of President Obama has been arrested on warrants accusing him of tagging property with graffiti, police said Saturday.

Shepard Fairey was arrested Friday night on his way to the Institute of Contemporary Art to deejay a kickoff event for his first solo exhibition, called "Supply and Demand."

Two warrants were issued for Fairey on Jan. 24 after police determined he'd tagged property in two locations with graffiti based on the Andre the Giant street art campaign from his early career, police Officer James Kenneally said Saturday. One of the locations was the railroad trestle by the landmark Boston University bridge over the Charles River, police said.

Fairey, 38, of Los Angeles, is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday in Brighton District Court, said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk District Attorney. Wark said Fairey would also be arraigned on a default warrant related to a separate graffiti case in the Roxbury section of Boston.

Fairey has spent the last two weeks in the Boston area installing the ICA exhibit, giving public talks and creating outdoor art, including a 20-by-50 foot banner on the side of City Hall, according to a statement issued Saturday by the ICA.

Fairey has been arrested numerous times for drawing on buildings and other private property without permission.

The ICA described the reason for Fairey's arrest Friday as "his efforts posting his art in various areas around the city."

"We believe Shepard Fairey has made an important contribution in the history of art and to popular thinking about art and its role in society," the statement said. "We are enthusiastic to be working with him and are pleased to be showing the first museum retrospective of his work."

The museum said Fairey was released a few hours after his arrest. Boston police confirmed Fairey had been released, but did not immediately have the time of his release or the amount of his bail.

A man who answered the phone at Fairey's Los Angeles studio, Studio One, declined comment and refused to identify himself. Fairey's publicist and a California lawyer who has represented Fairey in the copyright case didn't immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment.

Ginny Delany, who was at the ICA Friday night, told The Boston Globe that Fairey's arrest "makes him even more of a hero to me."

"The fact that he is arrested for his art shows that it is meaningful to him and he cares about what he is doing," said Delany, a graduate student from Cambridge.

Fairey's Obama image has been sold on hundreds of thousands of stickers and posters, and was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington in the days before Obama's inauguration.

The image is the subject of a copyright dispute with The Associated Press. Fairey argues his use of the AP photo is protected by "fair use," which allows exceptions to copyright laws based on, among other factors, how much of the original is used, what the new work is used for and how the original is affected by the new work.
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