Street artist’s work opens old wounds

August 3rd, 2011

This article is more than 13 years old.

Shepard Fairey’s mural at Ungdomshuset’s old site is defaced after one day

American street-artist Shepard Fairey adorned Copenhagen with his signature style of graphic murals this week ahead of the opening of his show at V1 Gallery on Friday. But clearly not everyone was happy with his work.

The artist – who broke into the mainstream with the ubiquitous ‘Hope’ portrait of Barack Obama – painted on the building adjacent to the demolished Ungdomshuset (youth culture centre) in Nørrebro on  Sunday. It was the first of four planned installations around the city.

The enormous work features a dove, the word ‘Peace’ and the number 69 – the address on Jagtvej where Ungdomshuset used to stand. 

“Here on this land where a youth culture once lived, I think the message of peace is fitting,” he told Politiken.

Despite Fairey’s stated good intentions, the six-storey work was vandalized within a day – defaced by paint bombs and daubed with graffiti stating ‘NO PEACE!’ and ‘Go home Yankee hipster.’

With Fairey receiving a 250,000 kroner subsidy from the city council – who did not stop the eviction and demolition of Ungdomshuset in 2007 – to paint the murals, many felt the work had a political undertone.

“The city council is using the painting – directly or indirectly – to decorate the crater-like lot at Jagtvej 69,” activist Eskil Andreas Halberg wrote to left-wing news portal Modkraft. “The art is being used politically to end the conflict in a certain way: ‘We’re all friends now right?’”

To Halberg, the city council’s decision to employ a well-known artist to decorate Copenhagen is an attempt to gentrify the city.

Others were not so cynical. 

“To believe that Fairey has acted as a useful idiot to insult the Ungdomshuset movement is surprisingly self-centred and a little paranoid,” wrote activist and writer Henrik Chulu on the politics and art blog frikultur.dk.

Fairey told Politiken the graffiti was “unfortunate” and that he would try to fix the painting before leaving town. 

“Then it is up to the people,” Fairey said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the graffiti had been removed and the painting restored.




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