On Wednesday it was reported that felony charges lobbed by the city against mainstream graffiti artist Shepard Fairey had been dropped by a Wayne County Circuit Judge.
For a quick recap, the story of Fairey and his illicit Detroit-graffiti-escapades began last spring (May 2015, to be exact), when, in a totally by-the-books, sort-of-boring fashion, Dan Gilbert's Bedrock Real Estate Services paid Fairey to do some artwork around the city (an 18-story mural on the former Compuware Building, to be exact).
Obviously, considering charges were filed against the artist, the tale does not end there. In addition to the paid-for-work Fairey, according to the city, allegedly did some "unauthorized" art by illegally plastering wheat-paste posters on seven buildings.
After charges were filed the saga sort of blew up, with a number of "think-piece-y" style articles coming out last summer pondering why Detroit decided to target Fairey when the city is literally riddled in graff writing.
One theory that we particularly liked was the idea that Fairey was all about the trial and charges. In the graffiti world street cred and more notably, relevancy, is everything. It's an anti-establishment art-form, and it's also as ephemeral as it comes. Being an aging artist whose name is now forever conflated with a 2008 Obama-approved "Hope" poster, and who is now in town to make big bucks off a mural for D. Gilbert, doesn't exactly scream cool, contemporary, #now, etc.
As one gallery owner explained to the Free Press last July, the legal fiasco was exactly what Fairey wanted.
"He wears his warrants on his sleeve like badges of honor," Rick Manore, founder of the now-closed CPop Gallery told the paper. "He's using the judicial system and the media to market himself. It's a minor investment and in return his name stays relevant. He's been doing this for years, and he's great at it."
If you want further proof for this conspiracy theory that Fairey was in on the charges (or at least enjoying them) the whole time, please enjoy consider the following 2011 TMZ-captured video of Fairey and his wife at the airport.
When asked if Fairey — who like many successful commercial artists likely employs a stable of young people to help with his projects (go watch this amazing/unbearable PBS doc on Jeff Koons to see how this typically plays out) — still puts up his own posters around town his wife is all too quick to shut it down. "A long time ago..." she replies before Fairey can get a word in.
His reaction? Golden. Terrible. Enjoy!
The comedy of this all is that Fairey likely didn't even put up the wheat paste posters in Detroit last summer — at least if his wife's first comment is to be believed.
That said, if we're to go with our favorite theory (that Fairey is into the bada$$ image felony charges bestow on him), we're going to have to assume Mr. Obey isn't too pleased that the judge dropped the charges (or maybe he already got the publicity he wanted?).
Lucky (unlucky?) for him, the city says it will appeal the judge's opinion.