Shepard Fairey, best known for his“Obey Giant” stencil and “HOPE” poster for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign has created a new work for charity using the Chinese artist, dissident Ai Weiwei as the subject.
The powerful orange, red, and black portrait was made in collaboration with Friends of Ai Weiwei, and is sending a clear message to the Chinese government about returning Mr Ai’s passport so he can travel freely. In the past Fairey has also depicted other artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring using his signature stencil outline.
Fairey’s work shows Mr Ai with an injury on his head, a well documented result of Chinese police brutality suffered in 2010. Ai has been an outspoken political activist. He spent 81 days in prison in 2011, supposedly for tax evasion, leading to worldwide criticism of the Chinese government. Though Ai was eventually released on bail, he has been confined to house arrest. Ai Weiwei has exhibited globally in museums and galleries and is highly regarded for projects, like the 2008 “ Bird’s Nest National Olympic Stadium .” For more than ten years, he lived and worked in New York, returning to China in 1993.
Of the project, Fairey’ stated in a recent interview, “All energies of the international art world should be focused on raising awareness for Ai Weiwei, who is currently under house arrest in China, unable to travel and visit his exhibitions around the world,” urged Larry Warsh, a friend of the artist and founder of AW Asia, an organization promoting Chinese contemporary art, in an e-mail to artnet News. “All this merely for his creative activities—how would you feel if you were in that position?”
Proceeds from the sales of the poster (produced in a limited edition of 375), will fund the Friends of Ai Weiwei charity efforts to help the artist and to promote free speech.The Shepard Fairey Ai Weiwei print will be available in a limited edition of 375; the artist is donating 100 posters to the Brooklyn Museum, which will present an Ai Weiwei retrospective exhibition, “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” from April 18 through August 10, 2014.
“Friends of Ai Weiwei” was formed to continue a sustained effort to generate awareness to the challenges Weiwei faces with the Chinese Authorities, specifically the release of his passport enabling him to travel outside of China. Their broader mission is to promote our universal right to “free expression” around the world.