TIME China

The U.K. Has Refused Chinese Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei a Long-Term Visa

Ai Weiwei - Visit from Germany
Peter Kneffel—picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in his studio during a visit from Margarete Bause, Chairman of Alliance '90/The Greens in the Bavarian parliament, in Beijing, China, 23 Nov. 2013

Instead, he will be allotted just 20 days in the country

London’s Royal Academy of Arts will soon host a three-month landmark exhibit of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s most important work, but the artist himself could be conspicuously absent. The dissident auteur announced via his Instagram account on Thursday afternoon that British immigration authorities had declined to issue him the six-month business visa for which he applied, claiming he had supplied deceptive information on his application.

With characteristic cheekiness, he released the news in a caption to a picture of a toilet.

He then posted the letter from the U.K. Visas and Immigration Office — sent by way of the British Embassy in Beijing — that informed him that he would receive only a three-week permit, requiring him to leave the country shortly after the exhibit opens.

The visa form requires the applicant to declare if he or she has ever faced, among other things, criminal charges in the U.K. or elsewhere.

“You have stated: ‘No, I have never had any of these,’” the letter to the artist read. “It is a matter of public record that you have previously received a criminal conviction in China, and you have not declared this.”

The letter then informs Ai that any future visa applications containing “inaccurate” information could earn him a 10-year ban from entering the country.

Though Ai’s politically controversial work has led to several run-ins with Beijing law enforcement officials, he says the state has never formally charged him with or convicted him of a crime. According to his Instagram post, the artist attempted to prove this to British authorities in China, but “the representatives insisted on the accuracy of their sources and refused to admit any misjudgment.”

Only a week ago, China returned the artist’s passport after revoking his international travel privileges four years ago on tax-evasion charges that Ai claims are politically motivated. The Royal Academy of Arts quickly affirmed in an eager blog post that Ai would indeed be traveling to London for the his exhibition, which opens on Sept. 19.

It appears that Ai is currently on his way to Berlin, where his 6-year-old son lives with his mother. (The artist posted an Instagram of a freshly minted German visa early this week).

TIME China

Chinese Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei Shows Off New Passport on Instagram

He has been barred from leaving China since 2011

Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei posted a photo of himself brandishing a Chinese passport on his Instagram account Wednesday with the caption, “Today I got my passport.” The image represents a significant step for Ai, who has been denied foreign travel since his 81-day detention in 2011.


A photo posted by Ai Weiwei (@aiww) on

Ai, who grew up in a family of dissidents who were exiled in far north and then far west China, has had a tumultuous relationship of his own with China’s communist government. Although he was publicly feted during his early years and later encouraged to maintain his popular social-media blog, the tide suddenly turned in 2010 and 2011, when he was briefly placed under house arrest and then detained for nearly three months.

Though authorities alleged economic crimes, many suspected the detention was connected instead to Ai’s outspoken criticism of Chinese politics. (One particularly provocative artwork featured Ai nude but for a stuffed alpaca, with a title that can be translated as Mud Horse Covers the Center, but whose meaning may also be interpreted as “F— your mother, the Party Central Committee,” the Sunday Times noted in 2011.)

Ai was released after 81 days of detention but told he could not travel as he was still suspected of crimes including bigamy, pornography and illicit exchange of foreign currency, Reuters reported in 2012. He has continued to work internationally despite his restricted movement, organizing shows from Berlin to Brooklyn from afar and most recently transforming the disused prison island of Alcatraz in San Francisco for an exhibition.


Now You Can Feel Less Guilty About Looking at Cat Photos on the Internet All Day

Thanks to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's cat art Chrome plug-in

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s media lab has unveiled an extension for Google Chrome called “Meow Met,” which shows a work of art featuring a cat from the museum’s collection every time a new browser tab is opened.

Designed by Emily McAllister, the extension features pieces by famous artists such as Mary Cassatt, Édouard Manet, Rembrandt, John Singer Sargent, and Walker Evans.

The plug-in is the latest example of how museums have taken to curating cat art to attract millennial visitors. The Brooklyn Museum presented an exhibit about cats in ancient Egypt while Japan Society put on a show about the history of cats in Japanese art, and most famously, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis started a cat video festival that has toured the country.

(h/t Hyperallergic)

TIME Crime

Artist Shepard Fairey Turns Himself In to Face Vandalism Charges in Detroit

MOCA Gala 2015 Presented By Louis Vuitton
Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic/Getty Images Shepard Fairey attends the 2015 MOCA Gala at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA on May 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.

The street artist is best known for his iconic Barack Obama "Hope" poster

Shepard Fairey, the street artist behind the iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster, turned himself in to authorities in Detroit on Tuesday to face felony vandalism charges.

Detroit police had issued an arrest warrant for Fairey in June after he illegally tagged buildings in the city in May, causing more than $9,000 of damage, according to The Detroit Free Press. The artist, known for geometric, graffiti-style murals, was in Detroit this spring to create artwork that was commissioned by the city, but he also reportedly did some unauthorized projects on the side.

Fairey, who is the executive producer of the MTV series “Rebel Music,” was out of the country when the charges initially were mounted but flew to Detroit on Monday evening. He was arraigned Tuesday in Detroit and his bond was set at $75,000.

The “artist-who-turned-legit” openly admitted to tagging in an interview in May. “I still do stuff on the street without permission,” he told The Detroit Free Press in an interview. “I’ll be doing stuff on the street when I’m in Detroit.”

This is not the first time Fairey has had a brush with the law. In 2012, he was fined $25,000 and sentenced to two years of probation for tampering with evidence in a bitter copyright feud with his “Hope” poster’s original Associated Press photographer.

If he is found guilty in Detroit, Fairey faces a maximum of five years in jail and fines in excess of $10,000; a preliminary hearing will be held July 28.

[Detroit Free Press]

TIME celebrities

The Smithsonian Won’t Take Down Bill Cosby’s Art Collection

Bill Cosby
Evan Vucci—AP Bill Cosby gestures during an interview about "Conversations: African and African-American Artworks in Dialogue" at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art in Washington on Nov. 6, 2014

"It's not about the life and career of Bill Cosby. It's about the artists"

(WASHINGTON) — Over the past seven months, as sexual misconduct allegations against Bill Cosby mounted, a top Smithsonian official met privately with museum directors across the sprawling complex on the National Mall to decide what to do about an exhibit showcasing Cosby’s private art collection.

While many companies and universities were distancing themselves from the comedian, Smithsonian officials ultimately concluded the exhibit should continue.

“First and fundamentally, this is an art exhibit,” Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian’s undersecretary for art, history and culture told The Associated Press. “So it’s not about the life and career of Bill Cosby. It’s about the artists.”

About a third of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art’s 50th anniversary exhibition came from Bill and Camille Cosby’s extensive African-American art collection, and two-thirds came from the museum’s own collection.

Most of the Cosby collection had never before been seen by the public. It includes paintings by one-time slaves, pieces commissioned for the Cosbys, a piece by Cosby’s daughter and quilts made in tribute to Cosby and his slain son, Ennis. The exhibit also includes images of Cosby and quotations from him.

Even without the assault allegations, the exhibit raised concerns. Some critics frown on showcasing a private collection in a prominent museum because it can enhance the artwork’s market value. Also, Camille Cosby sits on the museum’s board and initiated the loan, which raises questions about conflicts of interest.

Now the Smithsonian has revealed to The Associated Press that the Cosbys also funded the exhibition with a $716,000 gift, which virtually covers the entire cost. Museum industry guidelines call for museums to make public the source of funding when an art lender funds an exhibit. The Cosbys’ financial donation was not disclosed in press materials issued by the Smithsonian to publicize the exhibit, nor mentioned on the museum’s website. The exhibit opened in November. The Smithsonian said the information was available to anyone who specifically requested it.

Noah Kupferman, an art market expert at Shapiro Auctions who has taught about the economics of fine art, said such financial arrangements are not unprecedented, but museums must be transparent about them.

“It just raises a little eyebrow that a trustee of a museum is lending (her) own collection, funding part of the exhibition and the exhibition is highlighting works … by less well-known artists whose work is considered by some to be undervalued,” he said. “Repositioning these artists’ works as suddenly important could have significant positive effect on their economic value.”

The exhibit has drawn 150,000 visitors so far, according to the Smithsonian.

A promotion for the exhibit is prominently displayed on Cosby’s website even as his reputation has collapsed in recent months amid accusations of sexual misconduct by more than two dozen women. Many of the woman alleged that he drugged and raped them.

Cosby, who turns 78 on Sunday, has never been charged with a crime. He has denied some accusations, while declining to comment or respond to others.

Court documents obtained by The Associated Press revealed Cosby admitted under oath that he obtained quaaludes to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex.

In response to the admission, Walt Disney World removed a statue of Cosby. Bounce TV and Centric networks stopped re-running “The Cosby Show,” and some civil rights leaders called for Cosby’s star to be removed from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A sexual assault awareness group has petitioned the White House to revoke Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Some art critics have called for the Smithsonian to stop showcasing Cosby’s art collection. The museum director, Johnnetta Cole, declined to discuss the exhibit.

Cole, who is also the president of the Association of Art Museum Directors, is close with the Cosbys. At a preview for the exhibition, the Cosbys talked warmly of Cole and recalled how Camille Cosby wrote a $20 million check to Spelman College when Cole was president of the Atlanta school. In December, Spelman suspended its program funded by the Cosbys.

The Smithsonian defended the exhibit on its artistic merits.

“We certainly don’t condone his behavior,” Kurin said. “We’re just as deeply disturbed and disappointed as I think everybody else. But it’s not about Mr. Cosby. This is an art exhibit.”

The Smithsonian is sensitive about changing exhibits.

In the past, it has removed some controversial pieces of exhibits under pressure, but “we’ve never taken an exhibit down,” said Kurin, who has worked at the museum complex for decades.

In 2010, the Smithsonian was accused of censorship when it removed a video from the National Portrait Gallery exhibit about how sexual orientation and gender identity have shaped American art after complaints from a Catholic group and members of Congress.

An outside review concluded that unless there is an error, changes should not be made to an exhibit once it’s opened without a full consultation with curators, museum directors and the Smithsonian’s governing board.

For many museum experts and scholars, removing the Cosby exhibit would set a dangerous precedent.

“You’d be sort of stomping all over the curatorial integrity of what you’ve put up,” said Jack Rasmussen, director of the American University Museum. “I think if museums had to investigate the morals of every lender, that would be kind of a new and very difficult situation. Really, it’s about the art.”

Museums have displayed privately held art collections for decades because they can complement a museum’s own collection, said Martha Morris, assistant director of museum studies at George Washington University.

“The only thing that could possibly be a criticism is that once a private collection is on display in an art museum … it begins to add to its status,” Morris said. “That could potentially add to its value if the collector wanted to sell something, for example, or even give it away to a nonprofit for a tax benefit.”

But an art loan could also lead to a donation of artwork to a museum, Morris said.

Smithsonian lawyers reviewed the Cosby loan and determined any increase in the artworks’ value was a non-issue, in part because the Cosbys did not intend to sell the art, Kurin said.

TIME Music

Watch Philip Glass Look Back on Decades of Bringing Music to Art

The iconic composer talks about his longstanding friendship with sculptor Richard Serra, his recent performance inside an art installation and his advice for young artists

Early in his career, Philip Glass gave intimate performances in art galleries and downtown New York City lofts. Today, at the age of 78, the acclaimed composer still hasn’t stopped playing in unconventional spaces.

“The kind of music that I was doing, that my friends were doing, was not welcomed in the concert halls,” says Glass. “But we had no problem playing in museums and galleries, so that’s where we went. And then we never really left them.”

Glass recently partnered with sculptor and longtime friend Richard Serra to organize a concert in which Glass and violinist Tim Fain perform inside Serra’s exhibition, Equal. The installation, currently on view at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York and recently acquired by MoMA, is composed of four pairs of stacked 40-ton steel cubes.

“His work possesses a very strong presence and identity,” says Glass. “So when we put music into a sculptural environment that his work is, it’s a real encounter.”

Yet Glass and Serra don’t talk explicitly about the relationship between music and sculpture.

“We’ve never discussed it, actually,” says Glass. “Yet over the last 30, 40 years—it’s a long time—there have been many times when we have put the music and sculpture together.”

One recent notable performance was in 2008, when Glass performed a solo piano concert at the Grand Palais in Paris inside another Serra exhibit. For their latest collaboration, the decision to put together the concert was simple. Serra had invited Glass to watch the process of installing his new work in the gallery—something Glass often does—and mentioned the idea to him.

“Richard said, ‘What would you think about playing here?’ And I said, ‘I think that’s a good idea,'” says Glass with a laugh. “That was it!”

They agreed to make the event a benefit concert to support House with Heart, an organization for women and abandoned children in Nepal that needed funds to rebuild their facilities following the earthquake in April.

As is evident in his relationship with Serra, Glass values collaborating with his peers in various fields. He advises young artists to do the same.

“When I talk to young composers, I always encourage them to find people their age who make music and make dance,” he says. “Don’t work with the older people. Work with the people your age, because then you’ll grow old with them. You’ll have them for your lifetime.”

TIME celebrities

Exclusive: Inside Miley Cyrus’ Photo Shoot With People Across the Gender Spectrum

Miley Cyrus Happy Hippie
Miley Cyrus From left: A.J. Lehman, Kenzie Normandin, Brendan Jordan, Hailey Jordan, Alex Schmider, Mariana Marroquin, Leo Sheng, Nancy Barton and Laura Zeff pose for a portrait in Hollywood, Calif., on May 22, 2015.

The pop star is teaming up with Instagram for a new campaign to help raise awareness of issues facing the LGBT community

In a high-ceilinged photo studio in Hollywood, Calif., Miley Cyrus is running around in an androgynous yellow jumpsuit and bright white sneakers. But today, no one is taking photos of her—unless you count all the selfies that her new friends are asking for her to take with them, which she does with a smile, and sometimes with her tongue out. Today the 22-year-old pop star is the photographer, shooting portraits of people who identify as transgender, trans*, genderqueer and gender non-conforming.

They’re the stars of a new social justice campaign called Happy Hippie Presents #InstaPride, a collaboration between Cyrus and Instagram that launches June 15. In an effort to boost awareness and acceptance of people across the gender spectrum, Cyrus is using her platform to focus public attention on about a dozen subjects whose portraits will live on Instagram branded with the #InstaPride hashtag.

It’s an affirming day for people like Precious Davis, a biracial transgender woman who is sitting on a couch beneath giant silver balloons that spell out the word “LOVE” in capital letters. She’s next to her fiancé, a transgender man named Myles Brady who prefers to let Davis do the talking. As Cyrus instructs a shirtless transgender teenager to let off another confetti canon, Davis recalls her youth in Omaha, Neb., where she says she grew up listening to her family say, “‘No, no, no. You can’t be this.’” Soon she will be in a floor-length sequined gown, with Cyrus and everyone else fawning over how beautiful she looks.

“Anyone should be able to express how they feel, without question, and be able to live,” Cyrus says. “And use the f—ing public restrooms.”

Happy Hippie is a non-profit focused on helping homeless and LGBT youth that Cyrus launched earlier this year, partly in response to the death of Leelah Alcorn. Alcorn was a transgender girl from Ohio who killed herself by walking into traffic after, according to her suicide note, her parents put her through conversion therapy. (“I loved my son,” Alcorn’s mother told CNN in January. “People need to know that I loved him.”)

“People like Leelah are not living their lives because people are telling them what to be. And there are women miles away from me right now that are only allowed to show this much of their eyes. I can stand on a stage with my tits out,” Cyrus says. “It’s so unfair that I’m allowed to be like this and there are two men that can’t get married in f—ing Nashville right now.”

The portraits and the people in them are meant to serve as positive examples for young people who might be struggling to figure themselves out, as well as reference points for those who might not personally know anyone who doesn’t feel at home in their own body. Just 9% of Americans say they have a close friend or family member who is transgender—a population that experiences poverty, homelessness and harassment at dramatically higher rates than the general public.

The #InstaPride campaign comes at a time when the T-word is increasingly ubiquitous, courtesy of icons like Laverne Cox, projects like Amazon’s Transparent and political fights in state legislatures around the country over “bathroom bills.” In the bathroom at the studio where Cyrus is shooting, a television is playing CNN, where two anchors are discussing recent revelations about Bruce Jenner, who has not yet come out as Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair.

The people Cyrus is putting in front of the lens aren’t likely to find themselves on the cover of a magazine. Many of them are in a giddy “Is this really happening?” daze. “For someone that famous to say, ‘Hey, I’m looking at you. I know who you are, and I celebrate you,’ that means the world,” says Mariana Marroquin, who fled Guatemala as a teenager because her family feared for her safety. Now, at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, she helps other immigrants who “cannot be themselves” in their home countries.

MORE: The Transgender Tipping Point

Her colleague Alex Schmider is here too. “As soon as I heard about this project, it resonated with me,” Schmider says as he watches Cyrus scoop up ticker tape with her spindly arms and drop it at one of her subject’s feet. The young transgender man thought he was a lesbian until finally hearing the term “gender identity disorder” while in a psychology class at age 22. “I’ve always thought, if I had images that I could have seen, if I had people to look up to—what a powerful thing that would have been,” he says.

Nearby is A.J. Lehman, a Boston-area high school student who proudly walks around without his shirt on, showing off a masculine chest that his family took out a loan to finance. Tyler Ford, who grew up with pop star Ariana Grande in Boca Raton, Fla., prefers the pronouns they, them and their and identifies as agender—meaning they feel they have no gender at all. They follow Cyrus’ instructions to stick their ass out as Cyrus takes their picture, wearing a leotard and five-o’clock stubble. Meanwhile, Brendan Jordan is walking around in high-heeled boots and a translucent raincoat he brought from home. The teenager has ridden here on a wave of celebrity that emerged after he stole a local Las Vegas newscast by vamping—for quite some time—during a live interview. If pressed, Jordan will say he goes by he. But when people ask whether he is a “he or a she,” he usually answers, “I’m Brendan.”

The walls of the studio are decorated with yellow streamers. There are yellow balloons and racks full of yellow hoodies and boas and dresses that the day’s stars are sorting through before their shoots. The color, Cyrus says, is happy and not sexualized: There is no pink or blue. Assistants dump glitter on the subjects, who blow bubbles and review their portraits on a screen with Cyrus after she produces each batch.

Many of them have brought members of their families along. Leo Sheng, a creative writing student at the University of Michigan, is in Hollywood with his two moms. Wearing yellow shirts, they say that accepting Leo’s coming out wasn’t any easier because they’re part of the LGBT acronym. “It’s very scary thinking about your child possibly being rejected. There are social stigmas,” says his mother, Nancy Barton. “If we could do it over, I think we would have embraced it more fully at the beginning and been more confident in trusting him and supporting him.”

Jordan, too, is there with his sister Hailey and his mom, Tracy. “The whole family has totally embraced Brendan because he’s so happy now,” Tracy says, taking photos and video for her son’s burgeoning YouTube following. “You could tell, the couple years before he came out, he would get angry. He was just really angry. And I never knew why.”

The campaign was born in a meeting between Instagram and Cyrus, who had offered to give them feedback on their product; they discussed potential features like allowing users to designate “word sensitivities,” which would allow them to ban certain words from appearing on their feeds.

Cyrus is a passionate ally, although with all the attention focused on transgender Americans right now, some in the community have wondered whether the celebrities taking up their cause are doing as much harm as good. Even the people being photographed had some skepticism about Cyrus’ attentions.

“You have all those fears that you would normally when somebody from outside the community tries to rush in and save us,” Martela says of as she sorts through the racks of yellow clothes. “So often that’s a disaster. But then seeing what she’s doing—she’s bringing in people from the community and really seems to have done her homework.” With Martela is her new wife, Nina Chaubal. The couple runs Trans Lifeline, the first crisis hotline for transgender people staffed solely by transgender people, 41% of whom have attempted to take their own lives. Of the reasons people call them, Martela says, family rejection “is the number one thing.”

Gigi Gorgeous is nearby getting her face powdered, with her publicist and manager hovering. She’s a YouTube sensation who has been uploading videos for the past six years—from a time when she was presenting as a boy to the present, where she has become a buxom icon with a Crest endorsement deal. She often wears Barbie-branded clothing and looks a bit like a giant doll, sitting in a chair with blue eyes and blonde hair getting her makeup done. But she’s also a 23-year-old whose mother died before Gorgeous ever got to be honest about her gender identity. “I still to this day regret not telling her I was trans,” she says. “She never knew. Maybe she knew. But we never talked about it or anything. That was kind of a deciding factor for me. Life is too short.”

The only hint of the celebrity who launched a thousand think pieces when she twerked on stage at the 2013 VMAs comes at the very end of the day, when Cyrus pumps up the music and everyone gathers for a dance session. Cyrus twirls a boa, does the robot and gyrates. Still, it seems more like an attempt to get everyone to loosen up than someone asking to be looked at.

“In places like Indianapolis, you can tell someone that if they’re trans or gay they can’t use your public bathroom,” Cyrus says, referencing the “religious freedom” law passed earlier this year that has since been rolled back. “No matter what I’d do, I’d probably be allowed to go in there. Because they’re starf—ers. And these people are real people. I don’t want to be anywhere they can’t be.”

Read next: Miley Cyrus: ‘You Can Just Be Whatever You Want to Be’

TIME Crime

This Is Why a Radical Playwright Shot Andy Warhol

Frank Russo—NY Daily News Archive / Getty Images Detective Frederick Stepat and policewoman McCarthy escort Valeria Solanas, 28, into 13th precinct, for the shooting of Andy Warhol, on June 3, 1968, in New York City

June 3, 1968: Valerie Solanas, the author of the SCUM Manifesto, attempts to assassinate Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol might have made a career out of “photographing depravity and calling it truth,” according to TIME’s 1968 assessment, but even he had his limits — and Valerie Solanas’ brand of depravity was too far out even for this “blond guru of a nightmare world.”

Solanas, a writer and women’s rights activist, pushed feminism to radical new heights in 1967, when she founded the Society for Cutting Up Men (she was its only member) and self-published the SCUM Manifesto, which begins:

Life in this society being at best an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex.

She’d crossed paths with Warhol two years earlier, badgering him to produce a play she had written. He passed, later saying that he had skimmed the satirical and highly scatological script and found it so obscene that he “suspected Ms. Solanas was working for the police on ‘some kind of entrapment,’” per the New York Times.

Solanas occupied a place so far on the fringes of the avant-garde scene at Warhol’s Factory that the pair probably wouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath today — except that she forced herself into the historical record on this day, June 3, in 1968, when she shot and critically wounded Warhol, apparently outraged by his rejection and the fact that he had lost his copy of her play.

The shooting brought Solanas the attention she craved, although mainstream feminist organizations, including the National Organization for Women, distanced themselves and disavowed her agenda. Solanas pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to three years in prison after being found competent to stand trial. She was later diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Warhol, meanwhile, spent two months in the hospital recuperating from surgeries to repair his damaged lungs, esophagus, spleen, liver and stomach, and in some ways he never fully recovered. His injuries were so severe that he had to wear a surgical corset for the rest of his life, according to the Andy Warhol Museum.

The mental anguish lingered as well. “Since I was shot, everything is such a dream to me. I don’t know what anything is about,” he told the New York Times near the end of 1968. “Like I don’t even know whether or not I’m really alive or—whether I died. It’s sad.”

His experience left him so afraid of hospitals that he refused surgery after being diagnosed with a gallstone in 1973, his doctor told the Times.

“He was convinced if he was hospitalized, he would die,” the doctor said.

Unable to put off treatment after his gallbladder became infected, he finally underwent surgery on Feb. 21, 1987. He died the next day, of a heart attack.

Read more about the shooting, from 1968, here in the TIME archives: Felled by Scum

TIME White House

Artist Behind ‘Hope’ Poster Is Disappointed in Obama

NY: 2014 National Arts Award
Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan—Sipa USA/AP Shepard Fairey attends the 2014 National Arts Award held at Cipriani 42nd St, New York City on October 20, 2014.

Shepard Fairey is critical of the President

Correction appended May 29

Shepard Fairey, the artist behind the iconic “Hope” portrait that became the unofficial symbol of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for the White House, thinks the President fell short of America’s expectations.

“Obama has had a really tough time, but there have been a lot of things that he’s compromised on that I never would have expected,” Fairey said in an interview with Esquire. “I mean, drones and domestic spying are the last things I would have thought [he’d support].”

Fairey, a street artist and executive producer of MTV web series Rebel Music, told the magazine he thinks the president could have been braver throughout his eight years in office. But Fairey was also highly critical of lax rules on campaign contributions, which he said can lead those who write the biggest checks to believe they hold power over politicians.

“I’m not giving him a pass for not being more courageous, but I do think the entire system needs an overhaul and taking money out of politics would be a really good first step,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the artist has called out Obama for not living up to his campaign message of hope. In 2012, Fairey told the Guardian, “Obama hasn’t done as well as I hoped, but I created the poster with the understanding that people in office can only achieve so much.”

In 2013, he applauded a remixed version of his iconic poster that called out the President and National Security Agency in the wake of revelations that the agency collected data on Americans’ phone and web history in bulk.

“I have never been an unconditional Obama supporter or cheerleader,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “So I’m pleased to see people subvert my Obama images as a way to critique him and demonstrate the wide gap between some of his promises and actions.”

Correction: The original version of this story misidentified Shepard Fairey’s role in the web series Rebel Music. He is executive producer.


How the Art World Changed Its Mind About Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono with Standing Woman (1932) by Gaston Lachaise, The Museum of Modern Art Sculpture Garden, New York. c. 1960–61.
Minoru Niizuma—Courtesy Lenono Photo Archive, New York Yoko Ono with Standing Woman (1932) by Gaston Lachaise, The Museum of Modern Art Sculpture Garden, New York. c. 1960–61.

TIME was not the only one critical of the 'entrepreneur of happenings'

Yoko Ono made her “unofficial” debut at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1971, by advertising a “one woman show” that didn’t actually exist. What a difference four decades makes. “Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971,” a new MoMA exhibition of her work opening May 17, is a belated recognition of the importance of Ono’s conceptual and performance art in the 1960s.

But MoMA isn’t the only institution that did not give Ono much attention in the years before her name was linked to John Lennon’s. Her early work was pretty far out, and it was clear that not everybody got it.

Case in point: When Ono made her first appearance in TIME in 1966 as part of a report on the scene at a week-long “Destruction in Art Symposium” in London, the magazine’s eye-rolling tone was clear as it described her “fey Zen variant on the dominant theme” to “spread out a cloth on which she drew the outlines of people’s shadows, then [fold] it up to take their shadows prisoner.”

A year later, Ono merited a paragraph under the headline for her recent “show-biz flop.” As TIME reported:

In London last week, a widely heralded underground film called No. 4 had its world premiere, showing nothing but some 300 nude British buttocks, a fresh one every 15 seconds or so for 76 minutes. For sound track, there were the taped comments of the volunteers. “I’m a bit cynical about mine,” said a girl who described herself as a model, “because it’s worth money.” The director was Miss Yoko Ono, 34, a Tokyo-born artist-composer and currently an entrepreneur of happenings in London. The premiere was a benefit for Britain’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, a prestigious public patron headed by eminent Art Philosopher Sir Herbert Read. But the point of it all was lost on most Londoners. Sales of the opening-night tickets ($4.20 top) were so slow that many had to be given away. The most appreciative audience response came ten minutes (and 40 rumps) along, when a spectator leaped onstage and stroked the screen image. By the halfway point, fully two-thirds of the first-nighters had departed.

By 1968, she had become linked with Lennon, first as a “free female soul” with whom he was opening an art exhibit—and soon after as the avant-garde artist for whom he was leaving his wife Cynthia. Decades later, though her relationship with Lennon has remained a defining element of her public life, the museum at which she was once able to mount only a theoretical show is giving her a real solo exhibition.

Among the pieces on show: Film No. 4.

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