Street artist Shepard Fairey put up more artwork around Detroit — only this time it's legal

click to enlarge Street artist Shepard Fairey put up more artwork around Detroit — only this time it's legal
John Blankenship

Perhaps you've noticed colorful billboards that have cropped up around Detroit this month that appear to be done in the style of Shepard Fairey, the street artist and graphic designer best known for designing the iconic "Hope" poster from Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

We now know that they are, in fact, the work of Fairey. Detroit's Library Street Collective gallery confirmed to Metro Times that the 20 billboards were designed by the artist, and will be up for the rest of the month.

Previously, Library Street Collective brought Fairey to Detroit in 2015 to paint a massive mural on the side of Dan Gilbert's One Campus Martius and exhibit some of his work at their gallery. While in town, Fairey teased to the Free Press that he might do some unauthorized graffiti as well. Sure enough, his signature "Obey" posters appeared wheat-pasted on buildings around Detroit, landing Fairey in hot water with the city, although the felony vandalism charges against Fairey were eventually dropped.

This time, everything is above the board. But unlike a typical billboard, these aren't selling anything. Instead, they feature messages like "Equality," "Amazing, Portable, Powerful," and "Amplify your voice." The campaign is a partnership with Outfront Media, the company that owns the billboards. The two previously collaborated on an Orlando campaign to encourage environmental responsibility.

"When it came to this installation, we knew we wanted to tap into the tremendous diversity and growth of Detroit, and bring it to life in meaningful locations," Fairey said in a statement from LSC. “Detroit has a long history of pushing the limits in music and art, and through this partnership with Outfront Media we were able to not only capture the same fire and fight Detroit embodies, but also empower Detroiters to see graphic art as a meaningful part of the cityscape.”

According to Reddit, some of the Detroit area billboards have been spotted on I-96 Westbound, north of I-94, on Dix-Toledo in Lincoln Park south of I-75, and on Telegraph between Five and Six Mile roads. Have you spotted any?

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.

About The Author

Lee DeVito

Leyland “Lee” DeVito is the editor in chief of Detroit Metro Times since 2016. His writing has also been published in CREEM, VICE, In These Times, and New City. He once asked porn star Stormy Daniels to spank him with an issue of Metro Times. She obliged.

Scroll to read more Arts articles


Join Detroit Metro Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.