Art & Culture

Street Art Legend Shepard Fairey Unveils First Middle East Mural in Dubai Design District

Artwork reaffirms Dubai’s status as a UNESCO City of Creative Design
Dubai Design District

Contemporary US street artist and cultural icon Shepard Fairey, who designed the iconic ‘Hope’ poster of Barak Obama in 2008, has unveiled a new mural in Dubai Design District (d3), reinforcing the creative district’s reputation as a global design destination that rethinks the regular.

Marking his first-ever exhibition in the Middle East, the urban artist collaborated with d3, the region’s largest creative district, to create a striking public artwork that pays homage to Dubai’s vision for cross-cultural communication and cooperation.

Encompassing motifs from his ‘Future Mosaic’ exhibit, there are two murals that can be found between Building 10 and 11 in d3. The first mural, Rise Above Peace Fingers, features an intricately patterned peace sign, featured in the exbibit, layered with another image of a fist holding a flower that doubles as a paintbrush. Keen bystanders can also note the text ‘Rise Above’ with two arrows on the mural.

The second mural, Rise Above Dove, features two images, one of which is directly lifted from the Future Mosaic exhibit. All the murals have been created using bright tones of red, blue and yellow juxtaposed with black and white in Shepard’s signature style. Each mural conveys the universal message of peace,  harmony and co-existence.

From stickers and street art to skateboards and presidential portraiture, Shepard Fairey’s work has progressed from the images you might find on a skateboard deck to work that now adorns the walls of the prestigious Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. After studying at Rhode Island School of Design, Fairey created the ‘Andre the Giant has a Posse’ sticker that later evolved into the all-encompassing OBEY GIANT clothing brand.

Shepard Fairey's d3 mural
Shepard Fairey's d3 mural

Shepard Fairey said: “Dubai and the US have more in common than many people realise. As well as promoting vibrant creative industries, they both promote justice, peace and tolerance. I was so excited to explore these important values and am grateful that Opera Gallery Dubai and d3 gave me the opportunity to create a piece of work that reflects and honours our similarities rather than polarising our differences. I cannot think of a more suitable place for my first regional mural than right here in d3.”

On the first mural, he added: “The fist is a symbol of strength and empowerment, the paintbrush is for art and the flower as something positive, growing and blooming.”

Khadija Al Bastaki, Executive Director of d3, said: “We are delighted that a world-renowned artist such as Shepard has found inspiration in Dubai’s rich cultural heritage and diversity. When he reached out to explore the possibility of creating something here, we were excited because public art is intrinsically linked to our unique identity. It breathes life into our business district, promotes curiosity and engagement, and brings people together to strike up new conversations. As a place that rethinks the regular and challenges creative minds, we are proud that Shepard has chosen d3 as the first place in the region to design a new mural. As part of the UAE’s vision to create a knowledge-based economy, we have seen tremendous growth in the creative industries and this new mural further affirms Dubai’s position as a global destination for creative design.

Sylvain Gaillard, Director at Opera Gallery Dubai, added: “We are incredibly excited to partner with Dubai Design District to present Shepard Fairey’s very first mural in the Middle East. As one of the world’s most renowned contemporary artists, his work transcends all cultures and disciplines of art and is a great message of peace, justice and hope to the world. This comes in time for our Future Mosaic exhibit, which has been in the works for more than a year and is a great note to start 2021 as Dubai sets the world standard for cross-cultural communication and cooperation.”

People who see Fairey’s latest mural can tag @d3dubai@operagallery@obeygiant and #dubaigiant to join the social conversation.

As part of his first official visit to the region, Shepard Fairey debuted his exhibition ‘Future Mosaic’ which features a number of new works and classic pieces.  Many of them share similarities with, and references to, traditional Middle Eastern and Arabic design.

d3 is the largest business district for art and design in the region and is home to global brands such as Dior, Burberry, Zaha Hadid Architects and Foster + Partners. Art and creativity are the essence of the business district, and public installations play a key role in its milieu, enhancing urban spaces, encouraging engagement and creating moments of stillness and introspection. Some of its most popular artworks include ‘The Soul’s spaces and arcades’ sculpture by artist Ehab Ellabban and Thomas Heatherwick’s Spun Seat.