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Deitch’s Last Show: Shepard Fairey Portraits

The last-ever exhibition for Deitch Projects will be Shepard Fairey’s solo show opening May 1, a gallery representative confirmed to us today. When owner Jeffrey Deitch was appointed as the new director of Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art on January 11, he agreed to cease all commercial operations, including his gallery activity, by June 1. Fairey’s show, in the gallery’s Wooster Street space, will be its final hurrah.

Fairey, who rose to fame with his Obey Giant posters and achieved ubiquity with his Obama-campaign “Hope” poster, will present a collection of mixed-media portraiture of cultural icons, including musicians like Patti Smith and Woodie Guthrie, artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and academics like Cornel West. “The overall idea is the steps that individuals take to make art, change culture, change politics,” Fairey told us in December, when we spoke in Miami, during Art Basel Miami Beach. “I call it The People’s History.”

Fairey joined the gallery’s roster just last summer, meaning this exhibition will be his first and last under Deitch’s mantle. “From the moment I learned about Deitch in the mid-nineties, I thought, this is a gallery where I’d really like to be,” Fairey told us in December. “I saw Jeffrey as someone who really understands the connection between street culture and highbrow-art culture and can place the work from a street artist into the collections of museums and collectors that really validate that work as not just some sort of cute, rebel anomaly.”

Of course, Fairey will now have to find another dealer who can do that groundwork for him. When asked about plans for his future gallery representation, a spokesman for Fairey said, “All that’s premature. He's excited for Jeffrey and is focused on completing his work for the show in the spring.”

UPDATE: In conjunction with his upcoming gallery show, Shepard Fairey will paint the Deitch-operated mural space at the corner of Houston and Bowery this spring. Currently hosting the work of the twin Brazilian artists known jointly as Os Gemeos, the freestanding slab of concrete was brought to life after years of disuse with Deitch's recreation in May 2008 of a mural Keith Haring originally painted there in 1982. Fairey hasn't unveiled any specific plans for the space, saying through a spokesperson that he has yet to conceptualize his design for the project.

Photo: Kristian Dowling/Getty Images