Painted by Shepard Fairey aka Obey back in 2016 it was initially a homage to the victims of terrorist attacks in 2015 in Paris. Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité – the artist wanted to refer to those three values of the French people, as he finds it to be a necessary base in any democratic society.
The woman in the middle of the painting is Marianne – the allegory of the Republic. Interestingly enough, the image itself was inspired by a popular ornament used during la Belle Époque by the printing business, similarly, we now use free clip arts.
On the night of December 13th, a group of vandals modified the mural. The three words of the motto have been crossed out with large jets of white paint, and the red blood teardrops appeared all over Marianne’s face. Hashtag #MariannePleure (Marianne is crying) was added together with a reference to the magazine HIYA, who received the coded message from the authors moments after the event. The mystery crew shared photos documenting their intervention together with the manifesto and later a short video clip, that you can find here.
This hashtag, proposed by the citizen movement Concorde and promoted by HIYA, is a call for artists who feel concerned to create and share works that respond to the way the values of the Republic (freedom, equality, fraternity, but also secularism, the right to the soil, the right of asylum, women rights; to name just a few) are deteriorating day by day in France. The action has already got a huge response in the graffiti and other artist circles. Police violence, hijacking of secularism, inequalities of all kinds… Those are just a few problems they wish to address. Without explicit references to current events, probably to go beyond it, it is clear that it’s a part of the wave of protests, already massive, against the draft laws on “Global Security” (a ban on filming the police) or and on anti-separatism (considered Islamophobic).
Shepard Fairey’s response
The author of the mural quickly reacted to this détournement, expressing his full support for the protesters:
“I side with people who protest injustice, so if that’s what the statement was meant to be, I understand it.
The misconception is that the Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité image was something political that stood for anything other than a belief in the value of human life, human dignity, and a show of support for the people of France after they suffered a terror attack.
I think that the French slogan “liberté, égalité, fraternité” is really beautiful if it is manifested in the positive ways I’d like to see.
Freedom, equality, and fraternity are principles I’m pushing for with my art and activism, which I think should be apparent to anybody who looks at my history of messages of peace and harmony, respect for the planet, and respect for people of all races and backgrounds.
These ideas are what I’m pushing for in my art and what I’d like to see in France, the U.S., and around the world.
If some people feel that that the Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité art piece has been hijacked by people they don’t agree with, then my answer is – I’m not ready to give it to them, and you shouldn’t be either.”
Yesterday the mural was renewed. The three values remain standing, yet one little detail has been changed. “I added a tear to Marianne’s face. And produced a new limited edition silkscreen print, all the profits from which will go to the poorest people. Actions are more important than words” – expressed Obey in this official statement.
His studio produced 650 prints, half of which were shipped to Paris. They will be available on the Itinerrance Gallery website on February 17 from 7 p.m. (at a price of 90 euros). The other half will be available for sale at Obey’s online store. The profit from the sales will go to Les Restos du Cœur association.
Are you digging the result of this interaction? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Kasia Klon foundress of Street Art Tour Paris; artist (MFA in painting and printmaking) and a licensed tour guide.