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Recap: the Shepard Fairey party at the ICA

With people buying $500 scalped tickets to watch Shepard Fairey spin records at the ICA Friday, I’m sure that struggling DJs were as comforted as baseball players were about Michael Jordan’s minor league stint and truck drivers are about Karl Malone’s odd enthusiasm for eighteen-wheeling.

Perhaps the only demographic angrier about Fairey’s ICA “Experiment” bash than disaffected steel wheel jockeys was the nagging artist sect, which has clamored extra loudly lately about the Obey master’s interpolative tendencies.

Today, both groups must be raging loudly; while on the surface it might seem that detractors would find joy in Fairey’s unexpected arrest en route to his landmark “Supply and Demand” opening, they actually suffered a crushing defeat.

Not only did the party go off as (mostly) planned, but also the night sang from the exhibit to the after party. More importantly, Fairey reclaimed some of the street cred that’s eluded him since, as described in the ICA literature: he went "from artsy prankster to worldwide cultural phenomenon (without losing the rebellious spirit that started it all)."

Though this was "the hottest ticket in town" – a fact certified by requests from more friends than I ever knew I had for guest list spots – the scene wasn’t aggressively New York or Los Angeles phony. Sure, there were a lot of showy non-prescription eyeglasses in the house, but that was as egregious as it got.

As an art pedestrian, I had no problem with the notion that most heads came to party, drink and bullshit. That was the idea; the main upstairs gallery was only open until 10:30, pushing everyone down to the first floor, where the attractions were alcohol and dancing, and the artistic offerings were limited to a pair of Phoenix boxes that were magnificently assaulted by Fairey’s wheat paste posse.

Downstairs the acoustics left much to be admired (you would almost think the architects considered aesthetics over sound). Otherwise Z-Trip spun a safe but satisfactory set (at least until I split around 11:15), though people did more mingling than real rump shaking.

News of Fairey’s arrest shot around the room; if you saw someone you knew, it was necessary to comment on the situation, rant about how embarrassing it is for Boston, and then concede that – if it was a publicity stunt – it would be a mighty clever one. My line: "Two days ago he was shaking the mayor’s hand, and now this..."

After checking the actual exhibit – which I thought was tremendous, but I’ll leave that one to the art critics – I retreated downstairs to schmooze and booze. After two cocktails the drink lines got unruly, so I bounced to hear 7L and Beyonder spin at Achilles – a boutique-bar hybrid on nearby Summer Street where the quasi-official during party cranked before the after party popped off elsewhere.

As for the late night Karmaloop festivities, I’ll leave that one alone other than to thank the hosts for properly cherry-topping an exhilarating evening. I’d go into further detail, but I’m afraid my notes from after closing time are beyond comprehension.

It would be foolish to deny that – ever since Fairey arrived in town – fans and media have treated him the way that Podunk hicks would treat Tom Cruise if his space ship landed on the town common. I’ve never lived on State and Main, but I’m sure this frenzy is comparable to when celebrities shoot films in rural villages.

Still, it would be even more foolish to deny a character and talent such as Fairey the stage that he deserves. As Beyonder mentioned, all of last week smacked with events pegged to this show. “Supply and Demand” is like the hipster version of the Democratic National Convention – a beam of party light in the midst of an economically and literally frigid winter.

After the arrest on his big night, Fairey no longer needs parenthetical disclaimers reminding fans of his “rebellious spirit.” Homeboy got permission to drape Andre the Giant portraits overlooking South Boston and got locked for vandalism in the same week. No doubt the haters will continue hating, but nobody can claim the events leading up to and following last Friday don’t pass for badass entertainment.

-- Chris Faraone

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  • Cristobal DeLicia said:

    Shepard Fairey: OBEY my lawyers

    is a wee bit more sensitive when it is his images that are being "repurposed." An Austin, Texas, artist named Baxter Orr made a parody of Fairey's Andre the Giant design, adorning it with a SARS mask and the title "Protect Yourself." Last April, Fairey mobilized his legal team to send Orr a cease and desist order threatening legal action against him. The Austin Chronicle has the details.AnimalNewYork has posted what it says are excerpts of the cease and desist letter.

    February 10, 2009 12:16 PM

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