Arts & CultureDubai

Artist and activist Shepard Fairey Unveils his first Middle East Murals in Dubai

Peace, harmony and creative empowerment are the themes of the public artworks which appeared in Dubai Design District earlier this week. 

Currently in Dubai to promote his ‘Future Mosaic’ exhibition at DIFC’s Opera Gallery, acclaimed street artist and activist Shepard Fairey has also unveiled his very first mural in the Middle East.

Situated in the city’s trendy Dubai Design District the contemporary urban artist has collaborated with the region’s largest creative district, d3, to create a striking public artwork paying homage to Dubai’s vision for cross-cultural communication and cooperation. 

The two murals which appeared between Buildings 10 and 11 in d3 earlier this week, encompass motifs and themes from Shepard’s ‘Future Mosaic’  exhibit.

“I felt like I was long overdue for a trip to the Middle East, so when I was invited to do the show here in this gallery, I told them it was really important for me to do public art as well. When they said they could get me a wall or two – that meant I was coming.” Shepard Fairey tells us in the black room during the opening night of his first exhibition in the region at Opera Gallery.

The first mural is called ‘Rise Above Peace Fingers’ and features an intricately patterned peace sign, layered with the image of a fist holding a flower that also doubles as a paintbrush.

“Some of the motifs are things I’ve been using here and there in my work for a few years and then there’s some brand new imagery as well. The murals are about peace, harmony and creative empowerment… You’ve got the peace fingers which are sort of my hybrid of the Indian henna tattoos and the Vietnam War protest peace fingers.”

The second mural, ‘Rise Above Dove’, features two images, a dove and a rose, with the image of the peace dove recurring throughout various artworks in the Future Mosaic exhibit. As Shepard tells us, “The dove is a symbol of peace in a lot of cultures. So what I looked at were things that I thought were somewhat globally universal and then I’ve also got the fist holding the paintbrush with the flower growing out of it and I think that’s easy to understand. It’s the idea that creativity makes positive things bloom and that’s empowering.”

Both murals are unmistakably Shepard Fairey works. Presented using vibrant tones of blue, red and yellow, juxtaposed with black and white in Shepard’s signature style. Each mural conveys the universal message of peace,  harmony and co-existence.

“I know that it’s not easy to get approval for figurative work in public spaces and I knew that to be politically controversial, I’d be unlikely to get easy approval, so I looked at the imagery that was empowering but was also very authentic to my philosophy and who I am. It’s imagery that I’ve used for good reason in my work for many years and it’s a new extension of those ideas. I look at the work I do in public spaces as a gateway to the rest of my art projects, so someone who sees that mural and doesn’t know my work might come to this show to see everything, or go to my website and see my entire history. It’s an invitation into my world.”

The ‘Future Mosaic’ exhibition features new works on canvas, paper, wood, and metal, as well as examples of iconic images and repeated motifs from the breadth of his artistic history. More than just a collection of individual images, the exhibit is an intentional, cumulative mosaic of unique but aesthetically and conceptually related pieces that go beyond mediums and contexts. 

From silk-screened stickers to museum surveys, the trajectory of Shepard Fairey’s art has progressed from imagery you might find on a skateboard deck to his iconic image of Former U.S. President Barack Obama that hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC. Fairey also created the ‘Andre the Giant has a Posse’ sticker that later evolved into the all-encompassing OBEY GIANT clothing brand.

GO: Visit www.dubaidesigndistrict.com and www.operagallery.com for more information.

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David Tapley - Editor
Dubai-based editor for one of the region’s most fiercely local lifestyle publications across Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai and Qatar. Specialised in food, hospitality, arts, culture, and travel-related content.

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