The American Graffiti artist Shepard Fairey, who was charged in Detroit with causing criminal damage after allegedly vandalising several buildings during his residency in the city, will now have his day in court. The artist was returning from a ‘Spraycation’ installing his largest exhibition to date at CAC Málaga in Spain. Agents at the Los Angeles Airport intercepted the street artist as he returned home from a European trip, according to Douglas Baker, Detroit Law Department’s chief of criminal enforcement. “Our warrant was evidently discovered as he went through customs, and he was placed under arrest,” Baker released in a statement.
Now, according to the Detroit Free Press, a case against Fairey will go to trial in Detroit, after the artist was in the Motor City in May to paint some murals that were supported by local authorities and paid for by a local real estate firm, it is claimed that Fairey exceeded his initial work brief and carried out some illegal street art. Fairey has now been arrested more than a dozen times for defacing public property, with cleanup costs for the artist’s actions in Detroit estimated at $24,000, according to testimony by a Detroit city Workman.
“I’ll be doing some stuff on the street when I’m in Detroit,” Fairey had told the paper, and the artist went on to create his trademark OBEY tags and his Andre the Giant faces which subsequently appeared on streets around downtown, an act by the artist that lead to felony charges of malicious destruction that carry potential sentences of 10 years in prison, according to the Free Press.
When asked about any illicit activities he was planning, Fairey made the mistake of stating his intent to a local television station, saying “You’ll just have to keep your eyes peeled.” Douglas Baker, an attorney with the prosecution, pointed out that the artist is being used as an example, statingthat “One of the things we’re trying to do is communicate to all potential taggers … that we do take this seriously,” he said after the hearing. The artist is ordered to appear in Wayne County Circuit court on 15 September.