‘Obey’ street artist Shepard Fairey arrested in L.A. on Detroit warrant

Andre the Giant image beside a surveillance camera at the Eastern Market.  Photo by Steve Neavling/MCM.
Andre the Giant image beside a surveillance camera at the Eastern Market. Photo by Steve Neavling/MCM.

World-renowned street artist Shepard Fairey was arrested by customs officials in Los Angeles after returning home from an international flight and was held in jail overnight because of an arrest warrant issued by Detroit.

But the 45-year-old was released Tuesday morning after Detroit police declined to extradite him, about three weeks after issuing an arrest warrant for felony counts of malicious destruction of property after he allegedly posted his iconic work on buildings in Detroit without permission. Fairey had been in Detroit to paint murals downtown for billionaire Dan Gilbert.

A Fairey mural on a vacant building on Jefferson.
A Fairey mural on a vacant building on Jefferson.

Police said Fairey caused about $9,000 in damage to at least 14 buildings that were vacant and primarily derelict. At least eight of those building owners have come forward as “victims.”

Police are hoping Fairey, who has been arrested 17 times, will turn himself in.

15 images of Shepard Fairey murals posted in Detroit. 

Fairey became famous for his iconic, inspiring “Hope” image of Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Fairey’s work has become a symbol of anti-consumerism and defiance against authority, Big Brother and mass culture.

Close-up of an Obey mural.
Close-up of an Obey mural.

While Fairey was in Detroit last week, Gilbert gave the artist space to post his largest-ever mural – a 184-foot-tall piece with his signature, scowling image of Andre the Giant emblazoned in the center. With Gilbert’s permission, Fairey also posted the cartooned image of the former wrestler on a water tower overlooking Woodward.

Fairey’s work, which is often accompanied satirically with the word “Obey,” questions the authority of the wealthy, powerful and political.

Last year, Mayor Mike Duggan’s aggressive crackdown on graffiti caused a big embarrassment for the administration when it began fining building owners for murals painted with permission.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.