Shepard Fairey Hit with Felony Charges, Arrest Warrant Issued by Detroit Police
Will his illegal tags cost him his freedom?
Shepard Fairey is in trouble with the law again. But this time it’s serious. The street artist faces felony charges related to several illegal tags and murals painted during his stay in Detroit in May.
The artist was in town to paint a commissioned 184 foot by 60 foot mural at One Campus Martius and openly discussed his plans to create illegal work during his visit.
“I still do stuff on the street without permission. I’ll be doing stuff on the street when I’m in Detroit,” Fairey told the Detroit Free Press last month.
Around the same time, the artist’s signature “Andre the Giant” face and OBEY tags appeared on numerous downtown buildings.
Now Fairey is charged with two counts of malicious destruction of property after an arrest warrant was filed in Detroit’s 36th District Court on Friday. The crime carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail and fines of up to $10,000.
The Detroit Free Press reports that police accused him of causing over $9,000 in damage and have called for him to turn himself in or face arrest on his next trip to Michigan.
“Just because he is well-known does not take away the fact that he is also a vandal,” insisted Detroit Police Sgt. Rebecca McKay, who oversees the city’s graffiti task force. “And that’s what we consider was done, in these instances, was vandalism.”
Elysia Borowy-Reeder, executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit explained that despite crossing over into mainstream galleries, many street artists feel pressure to maintain their street credibility by continuing to do illegal work.
“This is a whole genre that’s become institutionalized, you’ll always have some outliers go back to where they started and where they get their inspiration,” she said.
Fairey’s rap sheet already includes over 15 arrests for defacing public property. He was also found guilty of tampering with evidence in a copyright dispute with the Associated Press over the use of his iconic Obama “Hope” poster in 2012, for which he was fined $25,000.
Fairey isn’t the only artist that has a reputation of running afoul of the law.
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