Shepard Fairey’s mural on the site of Ungdomshuset (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

COPENHAGEN — Shepard Fairey’s wall mural at Jagtvej 69 in the Nørrebro neighborhood of Copenhagen may scream “Peace” but graffiti artists appear to have declared war on the art work that sits on the site of Ungdomshuset, the former leftist youth center that was destroyed by the country’s right-wing government in 2007.

Even after the initial defacement and Fairey’s attempt to fix the situation, the mural continues to get vandalized regularly.

I toured the site on Sunday and there’s no signs of visual peace in the lot that attracts graffiti writers of all types. I’ve included a 180 degree view of the site so that readers can get a sense of the location of the mural.

A 180 of the site (click to enlarge)

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

19 replies on “Graffiti Writers Fail to Obey Controversial Fairey Mural in Copenhagen”

  1. Correction on the term “graffiti writers”: it is taggers and bombers that destroyed the mural. “Taggers” are the folks that repeatedly put their signature up and the more elaborate graphic texts are made by “bombers”.

    1. I have one of them as well… because it was on clearance and only had a tiny little logo on the front that I immediately cut off.  I admit it.. I’ll even pay Fairey $20 for a nice wool sweater.

  2. So, I live about a block from a hipstery shop that has some of Fairey’s posters up on their outside walls from the postering he and others did in the run-up to his ICA show here in Boston, and I was walking by yesterday when it really hit me… you find the word peace everywhere in his work.. and then you have all these militant and semi militant figures as well as lots of people portrayed in the same sort of manner holding rifles.  Fairey doesn’t go in much for consistency in the ideology his art supposedly has… though I’m sure he would say it has none.. which is horse shit.  He knows the game he is playing… so it comes as zero surprise that he comes up with the Obeyma.

  3. Fairey’s work is pretty complex, and not because of the images themselves. He’s got an uneasy symbiotic relationship with corporate advertising methods, with corporate funding, with underground cred gone sellout. It seems he’ll take money from the man to push his message, to get his work out in the world. It’s probably impossible to unravel the ironies that wrap around and around the work of this guy. One the one hand, the Obey campaign is just more logo vomit out in the world, on the other, most of it’s put out without consent (just like advertising–at least not with consent of the populace), it perpetuates itself through sales of more stickers and posters and tee shirts and products, thusly creating more obedience and becoming an ad campaign for the Obey corporation while questioning the modes of delivery of images and advertising. So yeah, it’s got an agenda like any system: exist in symbiosis with subordinate and parent systems and support itself at the expense of its agenda at times. Overall, I think it’s a smart way to go about things. In some ways, it’s way better than the artist-gallery business model.

    I don’t think the ideology in Fairey is quite as simple as “he’s a vandal” or “he’s a sellout” or “he wants us to question things”. It’s somehow more and less than all that. It’s like a hybrid system of conflicting ideologies. He writes very well on these issues in his catalog–it’s a pretty good read.

    A side note: I love the Obama/Hope poster. Hope is a great concept because it only exists when nothing can be delivered in a real way. As soon as change happens, we abandon hope because something real is going on. And when it doesn’t change, we abandon hope because the figure couldn’t deliver (who knows if Obama did deliver or not? Jury’s out on that one). This is particularly hilarious to me.

    Peace is such a trite and stupid notion anyway. There will never be peace–at least not for a very, very long time. Some idiot’s always going to fight someone else, and someone somewhere is probably going to deserve death. Peace exists only in the imaginary and intertextual senses and as a symbol we make with two fingers raised from a fist. There is violence everywhere. Peace, in fact, is a problem. What do you do with a military during peacetime? Flood the job market by letting them back in the private sector? Pay them to drill? Politicians would rather have the military doing something productive and progressive–like blowing up some country or another. At times Fairey’s work crosses from ambiguous critique into support of empty concepts, like Peace or Bob Marley or flowers growing from guns or some punk rocker or cultural hero, and that’s when his work starts to become echoes of leftover hippie idealism.

    1. “It seems he’ll take money from the man to push his message”

      It doesn’t really seem he has much of a message beyond selling pre-packaged rebellion in the form of images of and taken by often non-whites to wealthy and middle class whites.

      1. That’s a lot of unsupportable assumptions there.
        A) He has messages beyond the sale of rebellion. Read his statements, watch his interviews.
        B) You assume it’s rebellion that he’s selling, and I think that would take some proof. Sure, he’s put his work up illegally for many years, but does that make the images, clothes, etc. that he sells rebellious? I doubt it.
        C) You assume his demographic is white, wealthy, and middle class, but his products don’t really price many people out of buying some form of his work. Everyone can afford a sticker pack, at least.
        D) You assume his images of non-white people are somehow corrupted by the fact that he’s white. Which also assumes that he’s the wrong messenger for the right message, which is a twisted and insidious form of racism/sexism/etc. of the form: “leave the defense of x rights to x group of people”. Why can’t someone from one ethnic group champion the rights of another group altogether? Isn’t it better if ethnic groups champion each others rights? Aren’t people in the majority precisely the ones who need to champion the rights of minorities?

    1. All the comments are here.

      But there is a bug that I’ve been trying to fix for a while with the comment count being inflated due to comments duplicating in the database. Disqus has no idea why it’s happening so I haven’t been able to  fix it yet.

  4. The loaded, local politics of the installation site aside, the most obvious explanation for Shepard Fairey’s work here to continuously be gone over is that it is clearly in a known graffiti spot (look at the panorama!) and, as such, installations by an internationally high profile “street artist” simply are not welcome there. It really isn’t any different from the treatment Fairey’s May Day installation got on the Bowery/Houston wall in New York.

    1. But don’t you think it is peculiar to Fairey? No one got the same treatment Fairey got on Houston and if you look at the photo, the building at the far side of the lot is very clean.

      1. Of course it’s in response to Fairey as well – as the poster boy for commercial street art success, there’s no question that he has become a lighting rod.

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but Fairey’s stint on the Houston wall was the only one with an explicit tie-in to a gallery show, no? He was also the first to hit that wall after the much loved Os Gemeos mural was covered up.

        My point was just that whenever high profile artists are flown in from overseas and have walls arranged from them, there is bound to be resentment from the local community… especially if the walls in question are seen as being in traditional graffiti territory (which was historically true of the Houston wall prior to it’s current ‘officially curated’ state). 

        1. I think the Barry McGee may have had a tie in, but I can’t remember. Also, I think Fairey’s bigger mistake was not realizing that the site was highly politicized. Then the report that he received government money for the mural, which Fairey denies, is the reason locals got really angry. The government is the one who demolished the youth house that used to stand on that site. The locals thought the mural, which was declaring “Peace” was a message from the gov’t to the locals.

  5. Isn’t that a given when you make public art? That it will degrade with time under the influence of weather and people? I have a hard time believing Fairey or anyone else would actually expect his work to stay pristine. That’s what museum storage is for.

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