Thursday, March 01, 2012

Remember when the creator of the iconic Obama campaign poster, now in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, was accused of ripping off local DMV photographer Mannie Garcia?

Copyright Mannie Garcia/Associated Press
A few days ago Shepard Fairey plead guilty to trying to destroy documents and fabricate others in an attempt to try to conceal his process.

“I was ashamed that I had done these things, and I knew I should have corrected my actions,” he said on Friday in Federal District Court in Manhattan. The LA-based artist and the AP had earlier settled their long-running legal battle over the issue of Mannie Garcia's photograph.

Three years ago I asked the NPG about many of the slimy issues associated with the acquisition of this contested image, including a question that I asked and which I received several run-around emails which never answered my request for clarification for the NPG's acquisition policy.

It is my understanding that contemporary portraits could only be considered for acquisition if the portrait was done by the artist from the actual living subject. At least that's what I was told by an NPG curator a few years ago when I sold a portrait to the NPG. The NPG response should have been an easy one. They could either have said:

(a) Mr. Campello, you are right in that it is the policy of the NPG to acquire contemporary portraits only when the portrait has been done directly from the subject. However, because of the historical importance of this piece, the NPG made an exception to this policy as it would with any important contemporary portraits.

(b) Mr. Campello, you are incorrect when you ask if it is the policy of the National Portrait Gallery to only acquire those contemporary portraits which are done directly from the subject.

Instead I heard crickets back.

Then, I wrote to the NPG and recommended that since the Fairey piece is now in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery (through the generous donation of the DC area's ubercollectors Heather and Tony Podesta) I thought that it is only fair that Garcia's photograph also hang next to Fairey's piece and that the wall text reflect the process via which the ubiquitous Fairey work was created; that tells the whole story about the Obama poster.

Otherwise 100 years from now, people would have forgotten that Fairey and Garcia were apparently linked in the creation of this image, but only one got the credit.

It never ceases to amaze me how some stuff, such as this, which could be so easily and fairly solved, by otherwise nice, kind, progressive people (as I am sure all the head honchos at the NPG are), are otherwise ignored and the little folk, such as Mannie Garcia, get shoved aside from the pages of art history.

Fairey crime can get up to a maximum term of six months in prison and a maximum term of supervised release of one year, as well as a possible fine of up to $5,000, or "twice the gross pecuniary gain derived from the offense or twice the gross pecuniary loss to the victims", whatever the heck pecuniary means.

He will be sentenced on July 16; the NPG is sentenced now for failing to do the right thing for Mannie Garcia.


Rogerrr said...

reminds me of the Hirshhorn displaying a segment of the movie "Taxi Driver" as if the original copyright meant nothing -- at least that was my impression

Anonymous said...

Your argument would have some merit if you didn't show the altered copy of the photo. The original image has George Clooney in it and isn't rotated. It's a shame Fairey did what he did with the "false evidence" because he's completely in the right under current copyright law.