Best known for his iconic 2008 HOPE portrait of Barack Obama, Shepard Fairey is a world-renowned, multifaceted artist who creates everything from fine art canvases and limited edition prints to street murals, clothing designs, and album covers.
Based in Los Angeles, Fairey first became known for his “Andre the Giant has a Posse” stickers - which he created as a 19 year-old student at the Rhode Island School of Design, and have since evolved into the global OBEY Giant campaign.
Fairey's works are in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), ICA Boston, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and more.
Fairey is also well-known for his activism and humanitarian work, creating artwork and donating proceeds from poster and clothing sales to support nonprofit organizations like the ACLU, Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, FAIR, Young Literati, Surfrider, and many more.
After the jump, follow our guide to discover Shepard Fairey's stunning street murals in neighborhoods across LA.
"Los Angeles is a big melting pot with immigrants from tons of different communities, and of course, there’s a very strong Latino presence here. ... It doesn’t matter what your ethnic background is, your country of origin, your skin color. Once you’re in the U.S. and you’re a citizen, you are equally an American and should have access to the American Dream." ~ Shepard Fairey
"Defend Dignity" (2019)
Fairey's newest mural is also one of his largest in Los Angeles. Located in the South Park neighborhood of Downtown LA, Defend Dignity is "meant to inspire sensitivity toward our fellow human beings and the planet itself."
The central image is one of three that Fairey created for the WE THE PEOPLE series - it's a portrait of Maribel Valdez Gonzalez, a Texan of Mexican descent. Fairey collaborated with photographer Arlene Mejorado, who works on immigrant’s rights, to create this image as "a symbol of hope, dignity, and humanity. The bleeding lotus is a symbol of the beauty and fragility of our planet."
Grand Avenue (between Olympic and 11th Street), Downtown LA
Soho Warehouse (2019)
Soho House, which offers 23 membership-only luxury lodging facilities around the world, opened its Soho Warehouse to Founder members in September 2019 and to Every House members and their guests in October. Located in the Downtown LA Arts District, the private social club and 48-room hotel was redeveloped out of a 100-year-old building that previously served as a rehearsal space and recording studio for musicians.
The property features artwork created by more than 100 artists - many are based in LA, including Shepard Fairey, who painted a mural at the original loading dock that greets guests as they enter the lobby.
1000 S Santa Fe Ave, Los Angeles 90021
“Hate has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” ~ Maya Angelou
"Maya Angelou Rise Above" (2019)
In May 2019, Branded Arts invited more than 30 local and international artists to participate in the Maya Angelou Mural Festival, a large-scale project described by Graffiti Street as "a series of murals dedicated to the ideals of Dr. Maya Angelou, and to create murals that fit within the cultural landscape of the community."
For his mural, Maya Angelou Rise Above, Fairey chose the quote, “Hate has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet” because he says "we are living in a moment politically when many people seem to be choosing hate over compassion, but also because I think the quote is a good message for a high school."
Dr. Maya Angelou Community High School
300 E 53rd St, Los Angeles 90011
"American Dreamers" (2018)
Fairey and Portuguese street artist Vhils (Alexandre Farto) collaborated on American Dreamers in February 2018. Vhils is renowned for his striking relief portraits, which are carved into layers of plaster and brick using acid etch, bleach, pneumatic drills, and other improvised tools to reveal a wall’s layers.
Located at Mack Sennett Studios in Silver Lake, American Dreamers features Fairey's "Target Exceptions" as its central image. Fairey notes that "Vhils liked the style and sentiment of my image and added his own chiseled textures and portraits with women of different ages to symbolize the multi-generational nature of the struggles of immigrants."
Mack Sennett Studios
1215 Bates Ave, Los Angeles 90029
"Eyes Open, Mind Open" (2017)
Eyes Open, Mind Open rises three stories on the west side of the building in Echo Park that houses Konbi and Look Vintage. Fairey commented in an Instagram post, "It is nice to have a big piece of art in our neighborhood. Echo Park is not as rough as it used to be, but some areas are still rough… specifically the brick wall we were painting on! The mural looks good in the end but it was very tough to get clean lines."
1461 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles 90026
"Those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe." ~ Robert F. Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy (2016)
In May 2016, Fairey created a portrait of Robert F. Kennedy as part of the Branded Arts RFK Mural Festival. A partnership between Branded Arts, LAUSD and Thinkspace Gallery, the festival was designed to promote art in schools - specifically for the RFK Community Schools located at the site of the former Ambassador Hotel, where Senator Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968. Fairey's portrait is located at the front of the school's library.
Fairey said, "RFK is a hero of mine for his positions on racial equality during the Civil Rights movement. His speech after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination is one of the greatest speeches ever delivered. The opportunity to do a mural at a high school that focuses on art and social justice is great for many reasons, but it allowed the artists to demonstrate to the kids how firsthand, large-scale works come together."
RFK Community Schools
701 S Catalina St, Los Angeles 90005
Darby Crash (2016)
In April 2016, Fairey painted a mural of Germs singer Darby Crash. The location is owned by famed LA photographer Gary Leonard, who shot the photo that the mural was based on in 1980 - Crash is holding a skateboard, holding a brush and about to go out to wheat-paste P.I.L. posters. According to The Eastsider, the mural was originally painted in 2009 but it was vandalized. Leonard covered the mural with sheets of corrugated metal to protect it. Seven years later, the sheet metal was finally removed and Fairey created a new version of the mural.
Fairey said, "Punk, skateboarding, and street art are the trifecta that shaped my evolution, so the image has a symbolic weight for me! I threw nods to some other important LA punk contributors, like the Screamers, X, Black Flag, and Slash magazine/records into the image."
1932 Echo Park Ave, Los Angeles 90026
*Mural is around the corner on Duane Street
"Peace Tree" (2014)
Completed in July 2014, Peace Tree marked the commencement of Fairey's eight-city mural tour. One of the artist's most visible murals, the 30’ x 80’ Peace Tree towers over Wilshire Boulevard at LINE LA in Koreatown. Fairey described the Peace Tree theme as "a constant in my work," adding: "The Line is only a couple blocks from our old studio space in the Wiltern Theater so it’s nice to be back in the neighborhood!"
The hotel is a renovated Mid-Century Modern building that was designed by Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall (DMJM) - the firm also designed the historic American Cement Company building across from MacArthur Park, and the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant & Japanese Garden in Van Nuys.
3515 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles 90010
"Make Art, Not War" (2013)
In February 2013, Fairey painted Make Art, Not War at the front of Baller Art Ware, a Silver Lake art supply store located across the street from its sister store, Baller Hardware. The mural is a large-scale version of one of Fairey's most popular works, an anti-war print originally created during the Iraq War. The title is a play on the famous 1960s anti-war slogan, “Make love, not war.”
Facing the Giant co-curator, Pedro Alonzo discusses the imagery in a post for Obey Giant: "The Art Nouveau style of the image is an additional reference to the influence of Art Nouveau on hippie and psychedelic art of the '60s, including many anti-Vietnam war posters. Encased within a floral garland, the female figure appears more self-assured and real rather than ethereal. The placement of two paintbrushes below her portrait not only refers to a classical tool of art production but resembles spears, which when read alongside the directive to 'OBEY' that appears on her neck, simultaneously makes the otherwise palatable message more pointed."
Baller Art Ware
3714 Tracy St, Los Angeles 90027
"Legislative Influence for Sale" (2011)
Painted on the exterior of Angel City Brewery in the Arts District, Legislative Influence for Sale was commissioned by MOCA in 2011 as part of its wildly popular Art in the Streets exhibition. Legislative Influence for Sale was the first in the "Reagan and Friends" series, which also included Corporate Violence for Sale and It's Mourning in America. The latter was inspired by Antonino D’Ambrosio’s film, Let Fury Have The Hour, which Fairey describes as "incredibly intelligent, inspiring, insightful, and historically informative in terms of its analysis of oppressive politics and the creative response of the counterculture."
Angel City Brewery
216 S Alameda St, Los Angeles 90012
"Peace Elephant" (2011)
Another MOCA commission for Art in the Streets, the Peace Elephant was completed at the West Hollywood Library in July 2011 ahead of its grand opening on October 1. Spanning 70 feet by 106 feet, the mural was Fairey's largest to date. Depicting an elephant holding a flower in its trunk and a dove, the mural covers an entire exterior wall of the library's five-story parking structure. Americans for the Arts notes that Fairey found a way with Peace Elephant to celebrate West Hollywood, which was one of the first cities in the nation to officially protest the war in Iraq. Two other walls of the garage feature the work of RETNA (Marquis Lewis) and Kenny Scharf.
West Hollywood Library
625 N San Vicente Blvd, West Hollywood 90069