Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Shepard Fairy originals for sale on eBay

By coughing up a mere $100, you have the chance to own an original Shepard Fairey — or at least a piece of it.

An eBay vendor has listed a small piece of Fairey’s mural obtained from the Deitch Wall in New York City at a starting bid of $100. The mural was a mishmash of Fairey’s designs composed in his signature red hue. Even though just a piece of it is being sold, it represents a larger picture of Fairey’s work.

Along with peers like the elusive Banksy and quirky Invader, Shepard Fairey has made his way into the street-art scene. Fairey began his artistic career by replicating his designs on skateboards and T-shirts. His career was transformed when he burst onto the street art scene, plastering his work all over major cities in the country. Fairey is known for designing Barack Obama’s famous campaign poster. His signature mark, however, is the Andre the Giant Obey design, which can be seen in many forms all over the country splattered on the walls of buildings and pinned to street signs.

Despite being illegal, or perhaps because of it, street art has accrued a major presence in the art world, as seen by the success of the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. It has transformed what some audiences would just label “graffiti” into a stand-alone art form. From posters to paintings to stickers, street art has become a prominent form of self-expression, usually with a political or social meaning behind it.

This development could have a lasting impact on the way art is sold. “Every artist needs to make a living. Fairey is an interesting example of an artist becoming adept at using the media,” said Judith Hull, architectural historian and Emerson art history professor. Online shopping has the potential to put artists on the map, especially street artists. This may legitimize street art for some disbelievers.

This may also impact the art world at large. Ownership of fine art will not be limited to those with deep pockets and the private jet to travel to an Italian gallery. The average art lover may not have $50,000 to spend on an original in an art gallery, but would be willing to drop $100 on a print just a click away on eBay.

“eBay will put something up for sale and make it widely accessible, but it won’t serve the function of a broker,” said Hull. Selling art online may be working for Fairey, but it may not work for everyone. “Artists still need those brokers. Not all artists will make a living [selling their work] on eBay,” she said.

Serious art buyers may question the authenticity of eBay, despite efforts to legitimize the online community. “People who buy from big auctions are buying for authentication. When it comes to how art is distributed, a gallery is a whole other world,” said Hull. Online shoppers may worry about trading authenticity for ease, but that may not be the case with eBay users.

The real problem is if the shopper can be fast enough to beat out the competition for the Fairey mural shard. However, if you are unable to snag the piece, you can always just go down the street and try to scrape one off a lamppost.



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