Just like there are seven stages of grief, there have got to be seven stages of an art controversy. I’m not inventive enough to come up with those (anyone?), even though my gut feeling tells me they contain “Shock & Denial” (“Oh, no, I can’t believe he did that!” - “No, I didn’t!”), “Anger & Bargaining” (“I’ll sue the living daylight out of you!” - “How about we settle out of court?”), maybe “Depression, Reflection, Loneliness” (“Why the f*** did I become an artist and not an accountant like my dad wanted me to?”, “How dare these people question my motives?”, “I’m an artist, I can do whatever I want!”), and more. I don’t know what stage of the Shephard Fairey Hope poster controversy we’re in right now, it’s hard to tell. It does involve law suits, but since all self-respecting art controversies contain those, that’s not too helpful.
Having not followed the controversy too closely since after its early stages (I was too busy trying to come up with the aforementioned seven stages), the one thing that struck me was and still is how Shephard Fairey managed/s to destroy a lot of goodwill with his (re-)actions. For example, if I understand this all correctly he claims to have used an image for the “Hope” poster, which, if pretty much everybody else is to be believed, could not possibly have been the source. Hmmm.
Mr. Fairey’s latest move now caused gallerist James Danziger to publish this open letter. Key quote: “Admit you made a mistake and acknowledge the correct source picture as Mannie’s headshot. As someone who has worked in photography for over 30 years as a picture editor, writer, director of Magnum Photos, and gallery owner it has been my practice to stick up for photographers. That is all this was ever about.”