Shepard Fairey's Orwell covers -- books now on sale!

Back in April, I told you about the new Shepard Fairey cover designs for Penguin's reissue of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. They've just gone on sale! Link to Nineteen Eighty-Four, Link to Animal Farm


  1. Meh. Really don’t care for them at all. That 1950s one with the cleavage was much better. ;-)

  2. Very pretty. Though it would be nice to see publishers dig a little deeper and lavish some special attention on other selections from Orwell’s catalog. I would rank a number of his books above these.

  3. Red and black? What is this the eighties?
    Hold on a sec …1984… I get it!

    Still, nothing beats the illustrated Ralph Steadman Animal Farm from about 5 years ago. That was quite lovely.

  4. Want. Want bad. I still enjoy how, playing Half Life 2, you keep finding Shepard Fairey graffiti wherever you go.

  5. Where appropriation crosses into plagiarism is an interesting issue and the boundaries are not always clear.

    I followed the link and glanced at the photos that show where Fairey sourced his images… I think the charge of plagiarism may be misplaced in this situation–it seems to me that Fairey’s intention is for the viewer to realize that the images are ones that have been appropriated and then modified to subvert/change the original message.

    For example, the Yellowstone/Iraq poster wouldn’t be nearly as poignant if the the Fairey used an original image–it’s the very connection between tourism & military adventurism that makes the artwork what it is.

  6. Fairey has been a mashup graffiti artist for his whole career. The only people who are shocked, shocked I tell you to find gambling at Rick’s, are the ones who came late to the party.

  7. @#14 & #15

    plgst hrssht.

    Using someone else’s images in your art and passing them off as your own is plagiarism. It’s as simple as that.

    Calling them subversive or a mashup is just creative bankruptcy.

  8. I agree with #14 and if you read Shepard’s book he is very clear about the use of appropriation in his work. The book has frequent side by side comparisons of the original image he sourced and what he turned it into.

    No one would claim Andy Warhol plagiarized the original designer of the Campbell’s soup.

  9. These are pretty damned awesome. A good visual update for these two novels in particular.

  10. I heard of these books in a certain recent BB comment thread. According to several commenters, these books are about BB. Guess I should read them!

  11. I can’t really say that I back either side on this argument but this certainly makes sense to me:

    “No one would claim Andy Warhol plagiarized the original designer of the Campbell’s soup.”

  12. Nerdler@13,

    I don’t particularly care about Fairey or his art one way or the other, so I don’t think I could be called an apologist for him.

    Not every borrowing of someone else’s content is plagiarism (there are lot’s of examples of perfectly legitimate quotes & remakes in music, film, art, & literature). Especially if the person doing the borrowing is not trying to same the image is their original creation.

    You’re perfectly welcome to object to appropriation (but it would be nice to hear a more in-depth & interesting argument… not “it’s horseshit, you apologist!”), but Fairey is hardly the only artist to do so… it’s been a mainstream legitimate artistic technique for quite a while, especially in Pop and Postmodern art.

  13. Given the constant references to 1984 in the comments on BB–and all I can say to that is at least they’re not constantly invoking Brave New World, a book I’ve come to loathe largely because of the way it’s been abused–I can’t decide whether this post is necessary or not.

    I mean, clearly every single BB commenter has read 1984 (so why would they need to buy it?), but there’s probably still a large segment that haven’t memorized it yet.

    Also, I suppose you can never own too many copies of it. Hell, I should probably just replace my entire library with copies of 1984 and Animal Farm, since it’s patently obvious that Orwell is the only author worth reading. After all, he is completely original (Zamyatin? Never heard of him!) and no other authors in the 20th Century have anything valuable to say about language and politics.

  14. Can I get the above image in poster size / resolution?

    1984 and Animal Farm are already free online as etexts (thanks Project Gutenberg!)

    For everyone bemoaning that 1984 / Brave New World are over-cited; the grief lay with our current shithole reality, not with the multitudes pointing out that the Emperor Wears No Clothes.

    Since it seems like most people have given up on the post-cyberpunk hopefulness of the WELL / LongNow / TED vision and fallen back on selling out and “growing up” (as when hippies became yuppies), it seems we’re heading back into classic cyberpunk territory of future fascism (or fascist futurism?).

    Please read Kevin Kelly’s Out of Control and at least help us break even with a future like that of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell.

  15. Am I alone in thinking these covers cheapen the work inside? It’s like having Blink-182 cover Woody Guthrie.

    Maybe I’m just cranky and need a staycation.

  16. Spinobobot, I wish that just once, one of them would cite Homage to Catalonia or one of the essays.

    Nerdler, you’re not saying that Shepherd Fairey is a plagiarist. What you’re saying is that you disagree with the idea that appropriated images can be part of a legitimate work of art, even though an awful lot of artists think otherwise — including ones who can draw.

    XXXXXX, you posted the exact same comment six weeks ago.

    Codeloss: No, it doesn’t. The new work exists, but the old version is still there as well.

  17. Very nice. Read “Animal Farm”–good insight into the problems with pure socialism (communism).

  18. “No one would claim Andy Warhol plagiarized the original designer of the Campbell’s soup.”

    Why would they not? Oh, I guess since he never said he actually came up with the design himself, it wasn’t plagiarism. He just flat out stole it. For the Brillo boxes, he used the actual silk screens that were originally used for the real boxes. Everything Warhol did was bullshit, which was the whole point. At least Fairey is taking these images and doing something with them.
    Is collage plagiarism?

  19. I’m not sure what my problem with this guy is. It’s not the plagiarism thing – I don’t buy into that. I think he’s a good designer, and a brilliant artist. But his status as a trendy hit brand drives me absolutely crazy. I think maybe I regard his work as a sort of meta-design that’s more appropriate as a sticker on somebodies tackle box or a stencil on a brick wall than on a book cover or a store display window.

  20. Everything Warhol did was bullshit, which was the whole point.

    That’s a rather vulgar way of putting it. Rather, he destroyed the line between “fine art” and “commercial art”. Instead of running away from mass-production, he actively sought and embraced it. Warhol did to Art (big-A) what Gödel did to mathematics.

  21. I had mixed feelings about Animal Farm when I read it, which is likely because at the time I was reading it because i had to rather than out of interest, but it stimulated thought, to be sure.

    I had been meaning to read 1984, and go into it with the appropriate expectations in mind… but when I first saw these covers I knew I wanted to wait until I could get a copy with that art on it.

    Sadly, I can’t find them available on the US amazon site… and with the dollar/pound conversion so stacked against me, and the obvious fact that I’d spend a bundle on shipping if I ordered from the UK, I’m disappointed.

    Could anyone please help a fellow in the US snag one of the books with these covers without having to order from a source in the UK? I’d be quite thankful.

    oh and @#25:
    “For everyone bemoaning that 1984 / Brave New World are over-cited…”

    Now 1984 is very often referenced I would agree, but Brave New World is much less so. Really the worst I hear of anything even beginning to approach a regular basis is someone speaking the phrase “brave new world” in a way which may or may not be a reference to Huxley’s writing.

    Honestly, in my experience, when people make references to Huxley it seems to be when the subject being discussed is far different than when people typically reference Orwell. (personally, I’m inclined to blame Huxleys somewhat excessive fascination with mescaline for that).

    (stunned silence)

    Hm, as I was writing this, while through old paperwork archives in my desk at the same time, I stumbled across an essay from my high school years where I, of all bloody damn things, compared the perceived problems with the society in Brave New World with the problems of contemporary society (well, contemporary society in 2003). Summary: the issues are the same, it’s just that those depicted in Brave New World have advanced to a highly exaggerated degree compared to reality.

    They’re both cautionary tales in some level or another, so by their nature, the things they cast a negative light on are going to be things that already exist in society… but exaggerated to enough of a degree to get people to go “wow, that’s awful”. This also makes it really easy to point at the real world and draw a connection between it and the writings in question, which is why we all do it so darn often.

  22. Honestly, in my experience, when people make references to Huxley it seems to be when the subject being discussed is far different than when people typically reference Orwell.

    Orwellian government action is relatively easy to spot; mostly we can point to Nazis / Godwin’s Law, or to Stalin / Soviet Communism.

    And while the didactic third Act of 1984 with O’Brien is literally mind-blowing (like you’ve just unhooked yourself from The Matrix or something), Huxley I think was ultimately much more clever. (1984 is like a good game of chess; BNW is like a good game of Go.)

    In 1984 we have death by totalitarianism, but in Brave New World we have death by utilitarianism. Without a basis of comparison, would any of us recognize being trapped in a kind of Brezhnev stagnation (aka “Developed Socialism”)?

  23. #32, ‘Brave New World’ could not have been influenced by mescaline. (Perhaps you’re thinking of ‘Island’?) He wrote BNW at least a couple of decades before taking hallucinogens; and it is noteworthy that after he did, his attitudes about almost everything, including drugs, 180’d away from his earlier dystopian vision and towards a utopian one.

  24. That’s a rather vulgar way of putting it.

    Which would have delighted Warhol to no end!

    Warhol was a very successful commercial artist who walked away from a very lucrative career to live life as a piece of art. His Brillo boxes were called “Vulgar” and “banal obscenity” by critics.

    If he were alive today I can only imagine the weirdness and “vulgarity” he’d be up to!

  25. @ Teresa –
    I think that 1984, while perhaps referenced with nauseating frequency, is a valid benchmark for a totalitarian surveillance state with complete control of created reality. Catalonia‘s completely different. It influenced Orwell’s mindset when he wrote 1984, but it has nothing to do with the possibility of complete future technology-aided totalitarianism – an oft-heard and not unreasonable fear to this day. Catalonia‘s about how things fell apart at one time, in one place, under a very specific set of historical and political circumstances. It’s For Whom the Bell Tolls with less romance and more insight.
    Someone mentioned Zamyatin. If We was 1984, Catalonia would be a story set in Petrograd in 1917.
    But, because I love the bugger, here’s some superfluous Orwell: At that age I was not squeamish about killing animals, but I had never shot an elephant and never wanted to.

    Meanwhile, artist hype aside, I think these covers would look nice on my bookshelf.

  26. Now I’m imagining a Fairey cover for Homage to Catalonia, the only Orwell I’ve read more than twice. Mmmmmmm…..

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