Artist Shepard Fairey was arrested last week in Los Angeles by customs agents after returning from a trip to Europe. He was arrested based on a warrant issued by the Detroit police department–the warrant was discovered by the customs agents when they ran his name. Fairey is charged with two counts of malicious destruction of property. He was in Detroit to create a mural at a public park, and during a press conference he commented that while there he would create several illegal works–i.e. “tagging” property without permission (the polite way of saying vandalism). While he was there, several of his “Obey” works appeared around the city.
However, Fairey only spent one night in jail. According to Los Angeles county policy, the police do not extradite people for lower level crimes. While he was released, he will eventually have to return to Detroit to face charges. He has publicly stated that the charges are “hilarious”, but despite his humorous outlook, he could still face fines, jail and perhaps both. And judges generally do not look kindly upon defendants who find their charges “hilarious”.
As we’ve noted in previous blogs, just because it is art, doesn’t necessarily mean it is not illegal. It an artist is willing to push not only artistic boundaries but legal ones, he should be prepared to pay the price.