February 7, 2009 / 10:04 PM / 10 years ago

Creator of iconic Obama portrait arrested

BOSTON (Reuters) - An artist who created an iconic red, white and blue portrait of President Barack Obama that appeared on thousands of posters and T-shirts was arrested in Boston on graffiti charges, police said on Saturday.

Shepard Fairey, a Los Angeles artist whose “Hope” image of Obama hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, was arrested on Friday night while traveling to the Institute of Contemporary Art to kickoff his first solo exhibition.

Police accuse Fairey of damaging property with graffiti in several locations and issued warrants for his arrest on January 24, Boston police spokesman James Kenneally said.

An arraignment is scheduled on Monday. If convicted on all charges, he faces up to three years in jail, Kenneally said.

Fairey made headlines this week when The Associated Press claimed his Obama portrait infringed on its copyright to a photograph used for the artwork and that it should be compensated for its use.

Fairey has acknowledged that his image was based on an April 2006 Associated Press photograph of Obama.

Fairey was to appear as a guest disc jockey at a museum event on Friday to launch the 20-year retrospective of his artwork. He spent the past two weeks in Boston installing the exhibit, giving public talks and creating outdoor art including a banner on the side of City Hall, according to a museum statement.

The museum said Fairey was arrested “in connection with his efforts posting his art in various areas around the city.”

“We believe Shepard Fairey has made an important contribution in the history of art and to popular thinking about art and its role in society,” the statement said.

Reporting by Jason Szep; editing by Mohammad Zargham

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