What is Shepard Fairey’s Net Worth?
Shepard Fairey is an American street artist, illustrator and skateboard enthusiast who has a net worth of $10 million. He first gained notoriety thanks to his “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” sticker campaign. Fairey then founded the OBEY Clothing brand. His work is included in collections at The Smithsonian, as well as in various other prominent museums.
Supporters call what he does appropriation art, but detractors call it plagiarism and Fairey’s success has been tainted with legal and artistic debate about who owns what when it comes to images in the public. For example, with permission from the staff of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Fairey began distributing his famous “HOPE” image in January of 2008. A year later, with Obama in the White House, Fairey’s poster was officially displayed in the National Portrait Gallery. Around the same time the Associated Press declared Fairey’s poster was actually lifted from a 2006 photo taken by their photographer Manny Garcia. The AP was seeking credit and compensation. Fairey filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against the AP, arguing fair use. The two parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount in 2011 but a year later Shepard pleaded guilty to charges that he fabricated and destroyed evidence connected to the suit. He was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine, perform 300 hours of community service and serve two years of probation.
Fairey was born on February 15, 1970 in Charleston, South Carolina to parents Strait and Charlotte Fairey. His father worked as a doctor while his mother was a realtor. Fairey was interested in the arts from a young age and started placing his drawings and sketches on skateboards in t-shirts when he was a young teenager. He attended Porter Gaud High School in Charleston but then transferred to Idyllwild Arts Academy in Idyllwild, California. Following his graduation, he attended the Rhode Island School of Design, from where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration in 1992.
While still a student at RISD, Fairey created the “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” sticker campaign in 1989. The campaign would later evolve in to the “Obey Giant” campaign. The campaign gave increased Fairey’s presence in the art community, as it received global attention, though Fairey had originally thought only his friends at school would pay attention.
After graduating, Fairey founded a small printing business in Providence, Rhode Island called Alternate Graphics which specialized in t-shirt and sticker silkscreens. With his earnings from the business, Fairey was able to continue working on his own projects. During this time, he met American filmmaker Helen Stickler, who decided to make a documentary about Fairey and his worked called “Andre the Giant Has a Posse.” The film premiered at the New York Underground Film Festival in 1995 and then played at Sundance Film Festival in1997.
In 1997, Fairey co-founded the design studio BLK/MRKT Inc., which specialized in guerilla marketing campaigns. In 2001, he founded OBEY Clothing, which specialized in street wear and often incorporated politically and socially provocative propaganda into the clothing designs. In 2003, he founded the Studio Number One design agency, which did work for artists like The Black Eyed Peas and films like “Walk the Line,” among others. In 2006, Fairey joined the New York-based advertising agency Project 2050 as the Creative Director.
Much of Fairey’s work was featured in the 2006 book, “Supply and Demand: The Art of Shepard Fairey,” and again in the 2008 book, “Philosophy of Obey (Obey Giant): The Formative Years (1989-2008).”
In 2008, Fairey partnered with artist Z-Trip to do a series of shows in support of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. The shows were called Party for Change and Fairey created the posters and graphics. He became well-known for designing the Barack Obama “HOPE” poster that was widely used during the 2008 presidential election. He created a similar image of Barack Obama for “Time magazine” when Obama was selected as the 2008 Person of the Year. Obama personally thanked Fairey for his work on the campaign and Fairey’s influence on the campaign was also recognized by “GQ” Magazine, which included him as a Person of the Year in their 2008 list. In January of 2009, the Obama “HOPE” portrait was acquired by the U.S. National Portrait Gallery and made part of its permanent collection.
In 2009, Fairey had his first art museum exhibition in Boston at the Institute of Contemporary Art. The exhibit, entitled “Supply & Demand,” featured more than 250 works in a wide variety of media including screen prints, stencils, stickers, collages, and works on metal, wood, and canvas. As a complement to the exhibit, Fairey also created public art works around the city of Boston.
In 2011, Fairey was commissioned by “Time magazine” to design its cover to honor “The Protestor” as Person of the Year following the Arab Spring, Occupy Wallstreet, and other social movements occurring around the world. The cover represented Fairey’s second “Time” cover after he had designed the Obama cover in 2009
Another one of Fairey’s prominent projects is the Nelson Mandela mural which Fairey painted in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2014. The mural is 9 stories high and pays tribute to Mandela and the 25th anniversary of the Purple Rain Protest. The work represents Fairey’s first work in Africa. In 2015, Fairey paid tribute to the victims of the November 2015 Paris attacks by creating a poster representing Marianne, the French national icon. The poster design was then painted as mural on a street in Paris.
Fairey lives in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles with his wife, Amanda, and their daughters, Vivienne and Madeline. Fairey has Type 1 diabetes. He occasionally DJs at clubs under the name DJ Diabetic or Emcee Insulin. He also contributes to non-profit organizations that assist in medical research related to diabetes.
Fairey is also involved in various humanitarianism and activism movements. He has donated to organizations like the ACLU, Feeding America, and Chiapas Relief Fund. Obey Clothing funded the Obey Awareness Program in 2007 as an extension of Fairey’s humanitarian effort. Through the program, Fairey is able to sell certain specifically designed merchandise and donate 100% of the profits to various causes. Past recipient organizations have included Adopt-a-Pet, 11th Hour Action, Hope for Darfur, and Urban Roots, among others.
In October 2005 Shepard paid $1.365 million for a home in LA’s Los Feliz neighborhood. He listed this home for sale in 2016 for $1.835 million.
A few months before listing his former home, Shepard paid $2.5 million for a different home in LA’s Franklin Hills neighborhood.