Famous Street Artist Shepard Fairey Makes Dubai Debut

"American Rage," 2020, by Shepard Fairey.

American superstar street artist Shepard Fairey made his Middle Eastern debut with a 150-artwork exhibition, “Future Mosaic,” at the Opera Gallery in the Dubai International Financial Center.

Tackling war, freedom, propaganda, and environment, Shepard Fairey, 51, is known for making political statements in his artworks. He is mostly famous for having created the iconic “Hope” poster representing Barack Obama that was used during the 2008 presidential campaign. In his first trip to the Middle East, Fairey would like to bring back home images that break stereotypes and change minds in the United States.

“Future Mosaics” by Shepard Fairey, Opera Gallery, Dubai, March 15, 2021. Photo by Kyara Chams.

 “I’m living in the U.S. and I see what’s going on with our foreign policy and the spread of Islamophobia. When I hear ignorant things, I want to speak out, but I don’t have the first-hand experience to be able to do that with authority,” Fairey, aslo known as “Obey,” told the MBRSC Post. “So it was important for me to come here to share my ideas so I can go back to the U.S. and talk about my experience in the Middle East in a meaningful way.”

“The perception of a lot of Americans about the Gulf and the Middle East is very one dimensional,” said the artist. “I consider myself a world citizen, so I want to look at what we all have in common. I think it’s very tolerant and open here, compared to what a lot of people in the U.S. have to say.”

Shepard Fairey at the opening of the exhibition Future Mosaics, Opera Gallery, Dubai, March 15. Photo Jimmy de Paris.

Besides his exhibition at the DIFC, the street artist was due to work on two large murals at the Dubai Design District during his 6-day stay in Dubai. “Getting approval for public art walls here is not easy but I know that if I am able to get the imagery approved then that’s also a gateway back to the rest of my work,” he said.

“Seeing how a new district like D3 that cultivates art and design interacts with some of the traditions like the difficulties of doing figurative artwork in public was very interesting to me,” he said. “Some of the platforms allow me to be very provocative and other ones I need to be a little bit more diplomatic, but it is all about leading people back to the ideas in my work,” he said, when asked about censorship. 

Most of his artworks were already sold at the opening of the exhibition on March 15. It will run until April 15. Fairey’s artworks have been exhibited in renowned galleries and institutions in Russia, Italy, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and, of course, the United States. 

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Kyara Chams

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