Danziger Projects on West 26th Street has a beautiful show up of Obama images, including a complete set of Shepard Fairey prints, featuring a rare poster which resembles a 19th-century political handbill. When I arrived at the gallery last Saturday afternoon, owner Jim Danziger was being interviewed over the phone by the Huffington Post. It turns out that Danziger’s inquiries had led to the Associated Press complaint over rights to the image used in Fairey's iconic picture of President Obama.
"Fairey has been erratic about attributing his work to various photographers," Danziger told me, pointing to a different photograph in the show, acknowledged as a source for another work by Fairey. "When I asked his wife about the famous image, she called it a 'screen grab', which made me suspicious. The AP photograph was taken in 2006 by Mannie Garcia, who is a practicing Buddhist and was just happy to have his picture out there. I have sold 29 copies of his original photograph so far."The price is $1,200, in an edition of 200.
Jim continued, "People doing a Google search for the photo that inspired Fairey would find thousands of images from the last two years, but not go back to 2006, which I did, immediately finding the Garcia picture. I called the Associated Press up to arrange a proper attribution for the show." Jim even asked the AP to include his name and his exhibition in its press release about the lawsuit, which the news agency failed to do.
"Can you imagine, Charlie, how many people would be walking in here now, if the AP had done that? We would all be making money!" As it is, both crowds and sales are brisk for the show, which also includes a whimsical print of Michelle Obama by Mickalene Thomas. However, the Holy Grail of Obama collectibles remains elusive. This is a button for Obama's losing 2000 Congressional campaign against Bobby Rush, which now commands five figures.
"Can & Did: Graphics, Art and Photography from the Obama Campaign," Jan. 20-Feb. 28, 2009, at Danziger Projects, 521 West 26th Street, New York, N.Y. 10001.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).