Art icon Shepard Fairey is responsible for many people’s obsession with the medium, specifically when it comes to his renowned OBEY Giant brand. Now, the man who created one of the most recognized logos in contemporary art is now bringing it to the tech community, creating a new app that offers both a Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality experience to show off his latest exhibition.
We got a chance to speak with the legendary creative last night (rapping all the words to Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story” just seconds before our talk, might we add!) at the launch party for his “DAMAGED” app — officially operating as a pop-up experience on 136 Bowery in NYC beginning today (Oct 17) until Sunday (Oct. 21) — where he spoke in detail on how everything came together to bring it all to life. Read it in his words below, and see more photos from last night’s event in partnership with VRt Ventures, ABSTRKT NYC and Juxtapoz Magazine that featured a killer DJ set by Stretch Armstrong, libations courtesy of 1800 Tequila, good eats from the good folks at Sweet Chick and a room full of Downtown tastemakers that were all there for the love of Shep.
“The guys from the VRt Ventures came to the “DAMAGED” show [in Los Angeles] and they were so impressed with it that they said, ‘Shepard, we’ve been developing this technology. We did one project with MOCA — the Kerry James Marshall show — and we think we can actually do something even richer in terms of the environment you’ve created.’ [“Mastry”] was at a traditional white wall gallery, and what you have here is this unique hybrid of an industrial space with installations that makes it unique and tactile.”
— Shepard Fairey, on how “DAMAGED” came to fruition
“The VR headsets are something that a lot of people don’t have, so I wanted to see more of what they had done. They came back by saying they could also do AR for phones and tablets, so that’s what made me think, ‘Okay, this could be amazing.’ I saw a demo of what they were capable of, and I was like, ‘Oh shit, this is on!’ It really is like walking into the space, especially with a headset, but even just being on a phone or iPad you get a sense of all the components and dynamics of the space. On top of that, my voiceover is there to give users a walkthrough so I was excited for all of those possibilities. It all aligns with my philosophy of making art as accessible as possible to people. I want as many people as possible to be engaged by art and not feel intimidated by it.”
— Shepard Fairey, on making the VR/AR experience accessible to art lovers from all walks of life
“Tech gadgetry is such a non-intimidating entry point for a lot of people that might not even want to go to an art show because it sounds too “pinky out,” “wine & cheese” or just pretentious. I love the idea of not only being able to give my existing audience the opportunity to see a great virtual version of the show who didn’t see it in-person, but I can also potentially reach a new audience.”
— Shepard Fairey, on using tech to make art less intimidating for traditional street art consumers
“I think that a lot of artists are figuring out how to use new technology to help them create physical art pieces — kind of like a hybrid of new, non-traditional tech with traditional art output. On the other side, you’ve got people going the other way where they’re taking a painting they did and figuring out how to animate it in some way or do other things. I think that technology is just another way for people to realize their visions, connect with people and really make them excited.”
— Shepard Fairey, on how artists can mend the two mediums to create something next level and unique
“If you like film, photography and paintings, you can now blur the lines of all those worlds with the new tech of today. I love the idea of the orthodoxy saying, ‘Nah, you’ve got to stay in the painting lane or the film lane,’ and I’m like ‘Nah! Let’s rip all these barriers down!’ I’m down with that — the way technology can help facilitate that change is really exciting. It also means there’s a lot of new creators and amateur content that can be considered white noise, so it’s the job of the people who really want to stand out have to push that much harder to be original. I do like that [technology] pushes people as well.”
— Shepard Fairey, on how technology is both advancing the art world and making it more competitive as well
You can experience the “DAMAGED” app for yourself by downloading it for $4.99 USD over in the iOS App Store and Google Play store for Android, and on Oculus, Samsung Gear and Steam in VR. See pics of the app in-action below: