Iconic Barack Obama 'Hope' print among Shepard Fairey's works up for auction at Sotheby's

BySandy Kenyon KTRK logo
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Iconic Obama 'Hope' print among artist's works up for auction
"Politically Charged: The Prints of Shepard Fairey" is an online auction, and you don't have to be rich to bid on the works.

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan -- An iconic poster called "Hope" featuring Barack Obama is the centerpiece of an auction of political posters and prints by a single artist at Sotheby's.

"Politically Charged: The Prints of Shepard Fairey" is an online auction, and you don't have to be rich to bid on the works. The price point is far lower than is customary for the auction house.

At Sotheby's on the Upper East Side, Associate Specialist Chanler Rutherfurd carefully undid the tape and lifted the protective covering of the famous image of the former president.

"This was initially produced as a piece of street art," she said. "And what most people don't know is that the design was created in a day."

It was a day that helped to define the Obama Presidency, and a work that speaks louder today than it did a dozen years ago.

"I think this piece has such resonance because of the positive message," Rutherfurd said. "It is hopeful, as it says, literally, underneath."

It's one of more than 100 works by the artist now up for auction online.

"His work explores climate change, human rights, civil rights, equality, inequality, health care, to engage people," Rutherfurd said. "It's a call to action. He wants people to not be passive."

Fairey especially wants everyone to vote, "to take an active role in our democracy."

Rutherfurd, along with her colleagues, researched and organized his work for sale.

"He is asking us to question the impact of money on politics," she said, pointing a work called "Two Sides of Capitalism (Good). "So this is stating that those with money are those in power."

The posters and prints are rooted in Fairey's work as a street artist, and he has always wanted to get his work seen by the maximum number of people. In fact, he once offered copies of his famous Obama poster for free on his website.

The original is in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, but accessibility remains a concern of this artist, and this auction respects that tradition.

"Most of the prints in the sale are valued below $1,000, with starting bids as low as $50," Rutherfurd said. "So by having things at a lower price point, more people are able to access art and access the message."

His main message? Use your voice, use your vote.

And after you've voted, there's still plenty of time to bid.

The Sotheby's online auction runs until next Wednesday, November 11. CLICK HERE for more information.