Virtually Damaged : Shepard Fairey in New York to Launch VR/AR Exhibition App

“This is the first time that it is been done in alignment with what I’m truly trying to do as an artist,” Shepard Fairey says about this new venture into virtual/augmented reality being unveiled this week in New York, and on a phone near you.

Shepard Fairey. “Damaged” VR/AR Immersive Experience. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A stunning realization of the experience that a visitor would have had at his “Damaged” exhibition a year ago in his hometown of Los Angeles, the freshly released app is the product of millions of incremental images taken in 360 degrees that enable you to tour the show – even though it was dismantled a while ago.

“It was by far my biggest exhibition – bigger than “May Day” at Deitch Projects, bigger than the project I did in Dumbo and in New York with Jonathan Levine,” Fairey says of the exhaustive solo show of 230 pieces that opened to 21,000 people who had waited in 5-block long lines to get into the industrial warehouse. The new app designed by VRt Ventures captures each of those pieces in high definition of course, along with the more environmental experiential elements that the exhibition featured in the multi-faceted real life show.

Shepard Fairey. Screenview at Damaged” a VR/AR Immersive Experience. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

“I had the newsstand, billboard, murals, sculptures, the printing press, and the whole print studio,” Shepard says, “That was really probably the greatest thing about that space was that it was this hybrid – a street gallery feeling because it was this kind of industrial warehouse – and we built these white walls as well. It had all the corrugated metal and you could see all these beams and we set up this print shop in there so I feel like it really balanced the best of both worlds in terms of the presentation of the work.”

Last night in a Manhattan popup pre-opening show on the Bowery Mr. Fairey and his wife Amanda made the rounds with guests in goggles to tour the exhibition where it exists now – as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Billed as a “VR/AR immersive experience”, the open bar and crunchy hip-hop/punk medley pumping loudly across the speakers may have impaired our abilities to pan and click inside the virtual world frankly. But we could easily see how a quieter home environment, or even a subway ride, would make it easier to listen to Fairey’s narrated portions and to appreciate the navigation around the space. So we downloaded the app for phone exploration later.

Shepard Fairey. “Wrong Path”. Detail of vinyl print for Damaged a VR/AR Immersive Experience. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“The accessibility of the art is so much more in your hands and really, truly it is like being in the space,” says Ms. Fairey as she compares the new virtual experience to the original. “It was a giant warehouse and an amazing exhibition of his work – It’s like you are in it, I mean. Oh my god. It revives the moment for us.”

As an activist on the street, and later in galleries and museums, Fairey has always communicated clearly and in detail about the inspirational factors and contextual circumstances that are foundational to his work – whether in canvasses for private homes or prints for t-shirts or in the many stickers, stencils and hurried wheat pastes he’s left on walls in the middle of the night. So it’s no surprise that the works in the virtual “Damaged” are augmented with his voice describing the works and what he was thinking about when making them.

Shepard Fairey. “Bias By Numbers”. Detail of vinyl print for Damaged a VR/AR Immersive Experience. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

He imagines what it would be like for him to experience this with other artists as well.

“For me to hear Warhol giving a tour through the Factory – or any number of artists – explaining first hand rather than learning about the show through all of these people who may or may not be credible to be saying what they are saying,” he remarks. “When I think about how valuable it would’ve been for me; I like to hear things from the artist if it is possible. I did 100 minutes of narration on this. I usually write about all of the pieces that I create, about what’s happening in current events that are relevant to the work as well as the general principles of the work. So the VRt team went through all of the pieces in the show and found additional text to supplement my audio narration.”

Shepard Fairey. Screenview at Damaged” a VR/AR Immersive Experience. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

BSA: So do you think that this experience with this app and the way that people experience the exhibition when they cannot be there physically will be a good tool, not just for you but for a lot of artists to spread their message?

Shepard Fairey: Yeah I definitely do. Of course I think it’s always most important for people if they came to see the work in person. But when you think about the high percentage of people that basically are sort of scrolling through a slideshow of static images and that’s the best they’re going to get, this technology is really important for the future of art. Not just for artists but for museums that spend a huge amounts of money on an exhibition and it comes down after a finite amount of time, you can see this being more important especially as the technology improves.

To capture Damaged”, the exhibit was scanned with lasers–generating an exact replica of the exhibit.

These guys from VRt, you know they spent a lot of money to be ahead of the curve on this. Very used the highest technology to laser-map the entire space. You can go up to the pieces and see the textures. You can walk around the printing press. It’s really impressive. As this technology comes down in price it is going to democratize all kinds of experiences even more so I’m glad that maybe I can provide a little example a case study of how beautiful this technology is.

Shepard Fairey. “Wrong Path”. Detail of vinyl print for Damaged a VR/AR Immersive Experience. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Shepard Fairey. “Drink Crude Oil”. Detail of vinyl print for Damaged a VR/AR Immersive Experience. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


From left to right: Stan Sudol, Shepard Fairey, Evan Pricco, Steven P. Harrington and Carlo McCormick at the VIP launching of “Damaged” VR/AR Immersive Experience. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


To celebrate the launch of the “DAMAGED” mobile App, VRt Ventures, Shepard Fairey, Juxtapoz Magazine and ABSTRKT NYC host a pop-up will be open to the public from 10/17 – 10/21 at 136 Bowery in New York City from 10am – 6pm where fans can come check out the experience, make sure to follow @JuxtapozMag @ObeyGiant @VRtVentures on social media for more information.

The DAMAGED mobile App is available for download via the iOS App Store and Google Play store for Android, on Oculus, Samsung Gear and Steam in VR.

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