Rich Artist Says Artists Are ‘Screwed’ If They Aren’t Rich

Fairey. (Courtesy of

Shepard Fairey.


Shepard Fairey took a bit of a dump on New York in the pages of the Post, telling the newspaper that Los Angeles is the country’s “new cultural hub” (the Post‘s words) because New York is too expensive. Here’s the money quote:

“You can’t be in New York and not have ­either a trust fund or a good enough job to live,” Fairey explained at a Hennessy V.S luncheon at Soho House New York celebrating his label design for a limited-edition bottle. “Artists are screwed in New York right now,” he said.

Let’s go over the context of this quote again: “Fairey explained at a Hennessy V.S luncheon at Soho House New York celebrating his label design for a limited-edition bottle.” Maybe this wasn’t the best setting to make a populist argument? Fairey lives in L.A., and his Hennessy Limited Edition Deluxe Set retails for $150 on Gilt City. Soho House is a members-only club that costs $2,000 to join in New York, plus a $300 application fee.

Speaking to Vibe about his collaboration with Hennessy, Fairey said, “I did a lot of research about the history of Hennessy and I felt like the sophistication and the quality of the brand is something I’m honored to be associated with. Street art is free, but I also embrace the idea that art and commerce need each other, and can relate symbiotically rather than in conflict.” This guy.

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  • sofia

    Well what he’s saying is true… you CAN’T live in new york city as an artist if you’re not rich. The rent is ridiculous, not to mention the price for materials an artist needs. $100 flies out of your pocket the second you walk through the door. Fairey worked his ass off to get where he is today and knows the struggle of an artist. He has every right to point that out. So please, do not try to insinuate that he is a bad guy because he just so happened to say it at SoHo release party.

    • nick

      …And I hardly feel it is “taking a dump” on New York by saying the cost of living is hard to afford as an artist.

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  • melissa

    This article is pure shade and shows the juxtaposition in how the underground is suppose to be run and be operated. He does sound a little hypocritical. But he’s right, nyc is too damn expensive for someone to be living there broke.

  • 1976boy

    Los Angeles IS the new cultural and artistic nexus. The truth hurts.

  • Nancy

    So, he claims that “sophistication and the quality of the brand” is something he’s honored to be associated with. I’m amazed that Hennessy has anything to do with an artist as “un-honorable” as Fairey. Remember, this is the guy who steals other people’s work and then lies about it.

  • ted vov

    it cost $50/hr just to exist in that town.

  • Adriana J.Garces

    In defense of New York City, the surrounding boroughs and making a living as an Artist, I agree with Fairey’s point about the exorbitant costs of living in the city. Where or how he may have spoken are entirely another topic up for debate. That Fairey put New York down? I don’t know that’s what he intended, either. I’m also pressed to repeat what I’ve known since I first settled with my family- just across the river. It’s not for promoting New Jersey or any entity within it. In fact, New York City has been my workplace and playground since I was a teen. There’s really nowhere like it and I love it. Although I’ve lived in other places I admire for their unique qualities, I’ll always return as long as I’m able to. As far as ‘living’ in it by renting or owning a home – living on the Jersey side has proven not to be as insanely expensive— and it’s usually a 20 minute bus ride into the city. My point: if you can’t afford thousands monthly for the size of a tiny walk in closet, you CAN make it as an Artist in New York without having to ‘live’ in it. Besides that, a location held as status for raising one’s financial perception by others, can only set you back further. Good luck Artists! There are ways.

  • Paul

    I agree with Sofia. It’s fine not to like Shep’s work, we all have different tastes, but the snarky passive-aggressive hit jobs in the media should stop.

  • PAC

    This guy aside, it is definitely true about NYC and, sadly, the same can be said for LA and San Fransisco.

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