American street artist says French far-right party 'hijacked' his art

American artist Shepard Fairey, better known by his tag Obey, was not pleased to discover his work being used by the far- right National Rally political party in France.

The 54-year-old American – renowned for his 2009 Barack Obama US presidential election campaign poster – is one of the most famous street artists in the world, but is also a long-time social justice campaigner.

He was unimpressed to discover that his image of Marianne, the symbol of the French republic, hangs in the office of Jordan Bardella, president of France's far-right National Rally – the party leading in polls ahead of this weekend's fraught elections.

A number of internet users pointed out this when Bardella appeared in a TV interview with the Marianne portrait behind him in the background.

"It's so ridiculous it's hard for me to even believe," Fairey told French news agency AFP in Paris, where an exhibition of his work is running at the Itinerrance Gallery until 15 July.

"My work's been hijacked for political purposes, but usually it's subverted in a way that makes sense," he said.

Gesture of solidarity

"The audacity to take an image that was about peace and compassion after a terror attack, and also embracing the French slogan, which is a beautiful slogan – liberty, equality, fraternity... Right-wing people don't have those values."

A print ended up in President Emmanuel Macron's office and was seen by millions during a TV broadcast in 2017, forcing Fairey to defend himself against claims of political bias.

His 30-year career has featured 135 murals, hundreds of illegal works and 18 arrests, he said.

(with AFP)

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