'Hope' Artist Shepard Fairey Designs Inspire Wall Street Protest Invite

Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupation Party Invitation

Street artist and controversial graphic designer Shepard Fairey's imagery is being used by Wall Street protesters: using a palate of red, black and beige, the “Hope” artist's designs have been used for an invitation to the Occupation Party, a protest planned in Times Square on Saturday.

The invitation depicts a lone figure standing at an angle, with an Afro hairstyle and eyes cast upward. At first glance, the design is reminiscent of images from the Black Power movement, which are images Fairey has worked with in the past.

Fairey garnered mainstream fame — and a legal challenge from the Associated Press — with his iconic 2008 poster of then-candidate Barack Obama with the word “Hope” emblazoned in all capital letters across the bottom of the image. That design was replicated on posters, t-shirts and became a viral part of the campaign’s iconography.

While the protests near Wall Street have garnered a reputation for not having a single leader or spokesperson, the involvement of a bold-faced named like Shepard Fairey and the news he was designing graphics for the Occupation Party wowed even an art insider like Hrag Vartanian, editor of art blog Hyperallergic.

“That makes me very happy to hear,” he said, crediting Fairey for his long involvement in politics in spite of some of the controversy surrounding his work. “I think it’s something that speaks to a generation of people.”

Looking at the Fairey’s latest Occupation Party image, Vartanin said it looked to him like Angela Davis.

“I think it’s really great that it’s an upward looking positive image, as well as it tries to tie together a little bit of the radicalism of the 60’s with today,” he said.

The art blog Hyperallergic started taking note of the imagery coming out of the Occupy Wall Street protests when one of their writers tweeted a photo of a “sea of signs” near Zuccotti Park, the demonstrators’ makeshift headquarters.

From then on, Vartanian said he and his staff have paid special attention to how people are using art and social media to communicate about this movement.

“Because it was not necessarily through the mainstream media but often through tweets, photos on Tumblr,” Vartanian said.

His site was one of the first to cover the daily work of the movement’s Art and Culture committee, one of many communal organizing groups that meets at Zuccotti Park.

While employing familiar symbolism may not land Fairey’s most recent design in a museum, it does help convey a message.

Jean Robertson, professor of Art History at the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis and author of Themes of Contemporary Visual Art: Visual after 1980, said the design may also conjure imagery from other protest movements in Europe and the Soviet Union, with its use of the color red and reliance on bold black writing.

“There’s something almost old fashioned about this that seems like it’s trying to leap back through the whole 20th century of and all the protest movements that use graphic style like this,” Robertson said.

It remains unclear what Fairey’s inspiration was. He was not available for comment.

But on his company’s website, Fairey has said that his work aims to “reawaken a sense of wonder about one’s environment.”

Clarification: Speaking on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show on Tuesday, Fairey said he did not design the invitation for the Occupy Wall Street protesters. But he confirmed his images were used by designers affiliated with the movement and that he supports the fair use of his work and the movement itself.


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Comments [27]

Here are some sharp, non-biased wall street protest logos on t-shirts and other things at

Maybe these can brand the revolution instead!

Oct. 19 2011 03:34 PM
I Am the 99 from NC

There are some sharp, non-biased wall street protest logos on t-shirts and other things at

Maybe these can brand the revolution instead!

Oct. 19 2011 03:26 PM

Yankee hipster rips off another movement image to promote his career. How superficial compared to the hand-scrawled words and images of the occupation.

Oct. 17 2011 09:17 PM

check out to read the posts of all the rightwingers who have infliltrated the OWS movement. during the 60's, many of the protesters were actually cia operatives. sorry so paranoid, but even paranoids have real enemies. don't be so trustful of everyone who is there because some of the 1% are there to get information or just for discord.

Oct. 17 2011 12:19 PM

you are so right andy from new york, ny: obama is not only a HORRIBLE president, but, according to you, he has raised more WS money than any other past president, so let's all band together and vote in ANYONE other than him. won't that really help the OWS movement tremendously?

Oct. 16 2011 06:04 PM
marais morris from queens, ny

thank you caroline from california because i know that all of those racist comments were not made by the entire movement, but they were so insulting that i did begin to re-think my having identified so strongly with the OWS movement in the first place. your comment does make me realize that my original visceral reaction has to be dwarfed by the fact that we are all in this together and i have to keep fighting regardless of what is said. also, i was never insistent that OWS HAD TO USE an image of a black to symbolize the movement; i was just insulted by the way the "angela davis" comments were thrown around as if angela davis had been a horrendous person [she is now married to a white woman, btw] and i could not help but wonder what would these same white protesters have thought if fairey's image had been of fannie lou hamer [heaven forfend!] instead, for, if there had been a poster or tee shirt depicting mahatmas gandhi, i would have worn it proudly during the sixties.

Oct. 16 2011 05:52 PM
caroline from california


those are only a few comments. this is a movement of no color! please stay a part of it!

Oct. 16 2011 12:54 AM
marais morris from new york

as a 68 yr old african american woman who has marched in demonstrations and supported the entire sivil rights struggle with blkood, sweat, tears and money since a teenager, when i first saw the fairey poster, i never thought, not even once, that this movement is white [read "for white people only]; i just thought that this drawing symbolized struggle and i immediately tried to find out whether this image had already been printed on a tee shirt because i thought that this was a perfect way of raising money. but when i started to check into this, i was floored by the almost racist remarks that emanated from this. first of all, don't those white posters know that this movement involves a lot of college students MOST OF WHOM ARE WHITE. does this person posting all these white power comments even know that when whites have a cold, we blacks have pneumonia. does this person know that every black person i have spoken to is on the side of the OWS. go ahead and use some other drawing/image. who cares. but to say that this is a white movement and that this drawing might scare away the midwesterners, read "important to this movement -- white people" you have proven to be just what you are. i thought the drawing represented that blacks are at the bottom of the united states totem pole in the first place and quiet as it is kept, blacks are suffering a hundred fold more than you whites. maybe the OWS movement is just for you guys. i never thought that before as i donated money, and begged my friends to do the same. thanks for telling me because i am only now beginning to get your point here.

Oct. 15 2011 10:23 PM
fourpmfox from USA

Very strange that he would choose an African American face when the "movement" is almost exclusively white, much more so than the tea party.

Oct. 15 2011 02:59 PM
aa7890 from bkln

b/c SF designed this, i'm supposed to get goose bumps?
i'm not.

cleverly, he might have been chosen for publicity purposes - clearly not art/creative purposes, as in:
Wow, everybody look at what SF made for ows...isn't it rad?
no it isn't.

Oct. 15 2011 01:53 PM
foofy from CT

Wrong image, wrong era. Angela Davis does not represent the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Oct. 15 2011 10:53 AM
PJ McFlur

Ron Paul represents peace, restoring civil liberties and sound/honest money. Shepherd and #OWS should get their heads out of their ass. Follow the money. The ROOT of the corruption lays at the foot of the Federal Reserve. The power to create money with no oversight... they handed out $16 Trillion to their buddies. Wake up folks. Right or left, it doesn't take a genius to realize the Fed is the great enabler of corruption.

Oct. 15 2011 09:33 AM
Matt from NYC

It's amazing to watch Shepard get so much coverage over the years. Fan or no fan - what a skater guy from Charleston, SC has accomplished is amazing. I'll always be a fan. it's great to watch his success

Oct. 15 2011 08:43 AM
LK from Paris

Looks like a first year art school project…

From an artistic and specifically street art point of view I find it hard to see Talent behind this effort. M Fairey is no typographer either. I find Mark's comment particularly relevant, but it also makes me wonder why this "invitation" is being written about in the first place.

Oct. 15 2011 07:42 AM
LK from Paris

Looks like a first year art school project…

From an artistic and specifically street art point of view I find it hard to see Talent behind this effort. M Fairey is no typographer either. I find Mark's comment particularly relevant, but it also makes me wonder why this "invitation" is being written about in the first place.

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Oct. 15 2011 04:30 AM
sue bowers-miller

Looks like Emory Douglas to me.
Is he aspiring to be the Elvis of Design?

Oct. 15 2011 02:46 AM

Just look at that poster, there are two things wrong with it. 1) it says "the occupation party" which sort of plants the idea of a political party and the OWS movement is not trying to be a political party nor does it want one to represent it. 2) he uses black militant imagery which has nothing to do with this movement and will only alienate the unemployed whites in middle America hurt most by capitalist globalization. This poster is either out of touch or a deliberate attempt to take the movement off message or just an attempt at self-promotion. Whatever it is, it's bad.

The revolution will not be branded by Shepard Fairey.

Oct. 14 2011 11:39 PM
George Anderson from Seattle

If you don't know why they are protesting on Wall Street, this article gives a good explanation why.

Oct. 14 2011 09:33 PM
jetsonorama from Arizona

nico + kim - thanks for breaking it down. respect.

Oct. 14 2011 04:34 PM
Kim from MInneapolis

Considering that he blew his chance to make a real difference for working commercial artists by lying under oath in a court of law for what should have been deemed fair use of an AP photo as a reference image, I'd urge the Occupy movements to say thanks but no thanks. His reputation has been compromised and besides, he's so over. Give me the earnest handmade signs over slick, commercial work and his tired old imagery any day.

Oct. 14 2011 03:31 PM
Nico from NYC/#OWS

As a self described capitalist who has his company's clothing manufactured in sweatshops in China, Shepard Fairey represents the 1%. He has NEVER been an activist, he's only actively co-opted (and downright stolen) radical imagery done by actual activists artists, stripped them of all radical/racial/political content and redistributed them to promote HIMSELF.
Trust me #OWS doesn't want him.

Oct. 14 2011 03:24 PM
jetsonorama from arizona

i've a couple thoughts -

fairey doing the "hope" poster doesn't imply that he supports obama's tenure as president. he's not beholden to him. so yeah, why not do the occupy invitation? that actually seems more consistent with his politics and his past work.

and yes, the image he chose borrows heavily from an angela davis "equality" poster he did back in the late 90s.

Oct. 14 2011 02:43 PM
Peter M

The graphic of the woman with an afro and turtleneck is one he did a while back.

Oct. 14 2011 12:54 PM
wizzlewolf from St. Petersburg

Dee. I agree. The first thing I thought of was "Angela Davis".

Oct. 14 2011 12:50 PM
Dee from ny

I don't like it. I think it should have had two or three figures in the pic representing more of who are actually down there. It's an absolutely multicultural protest, but this looks like a black power poster, when most of the people down in the park right now are white. I also wonder what photo or past print he lifted this image from????

Oct. 14 2011 12:36 PM
Andy from New York, NY

I find it ironic that Fairey, who worked hard to put Obama into office, supports Occupy Wall Street. Obama has raised more Wall Street money than any other past president.

Oct. 14 2011 12:19 PM

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