One of the most iconic images from the 2008 US presidential election is Barack Obama’s Hope portrait. Street artist Shepard Fairey shot into the media spotlight after he appropriated images and created a series of posters supporting Barack Obama’s campaign.
In March 2009, the design community gave the artist a seal of approval, voting the poster Design of the Year at the Brit Insurance Design Awards held at London’s Design Museum.
Fairey’s imagery has caused controversy, triggering accusations of plagiarism and propaganda. Some were angered by the stereotypical political ephemera, with Jonathan Ellery of Browns Design stating, ‘It is unworthy of such a prestigious award.’
Other disagreements include an ongoing court battle against Associated Press after it counter-sued the artist for copyright infringement. Fairey had originally sued AP in February, arguing that he didn’t violate copyright law because he dramatically changed the image. The Andy Warholesque portrait has been featured in various magazines, including Time and Esquire. In January 2009, the US National Portrait Gallery acquired it for its permanent collection.
Fairey’s influence throughout the US election also contributed to him being named Person on the Year for 2008 by GQ magazine.