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Home / Reviews / Apps and Games / Android / App of the week: Shepard Fairey AR – Damaged review

App of the week: Shepard Fairey AR – Damaged review

Get your art in gear with this AR-infused mash-up of topical gallery exhibition and cutting-edge technology

Shepard Fairey’s ‘Hope’ poster, for then Presidential candidate Barack Obama, is one of the most iconic pieces of art and design in recent years. Since then, the political climate has dramatically shifted, which Fairey addressed in his ambitious LA exhibition ‘Damaged’. This has now been brought in its entirety to your phone, by way of an impressive and immersive VR/AR experience.

I mean this in a broadly literal sense. Typically, gallery experiences in digital are little more than a fancy slideshow, but with Damaged, you get a vast warehouse to explore. Part videogame, part immersive installation, it is significantly more evocative than mindlessly swiping through still images, and an excellent example of how the small screen can democratise art.

Sounds good

The second you fire up the app and start exploring, you get an immediate sense of space and context. You can browse the exhibition, taking things in however you see fit. Subtle atmospherics and the odd animation add to the illusion. The sounds of a flickering neon sign at the entrance to the exhibit follow you around, buzzing and fizzing in the distance above the hubbub of local atmospherics.

Fairey optionally joins you on the journey as well – albeit as a disembodied voice that echoes through the warehouse, providing background and reasoning behind the pieces you gawp at. It feels like a personal tour, and you half expect to see the artist when you turn around, proudly looking at his work.

If you’re less keen on Fairey banging on about everything you’re looking at, you can disable the commentary, and just breathe in the art, or dip into written notes instead.

Art movement

Art movement

There’s flexibility, too, in how you can move around the virtual exhibition. You can swipe the display to change your viewpoint, move your phone around in front of your face to dictate what’s shown, or go full-on AR, the view updating as you walk. Fortunately, if you don’t happen to live in a warehouse, a swift double-tap lets you quickly scoot up to whichever piece of art you want to next see, rather than awkwardly asking to pop in next door when you run out of space.

Of course, whether or not the message and the art appeals to you is another thing entirely. But Fairey himself notes that art can be part of the solution in a damaged society, “because it can inspire people to look at an issue they might otherwise ignore or reject”. That’s all very well if they can access it, but too often they cannot.

This app still presents barriers – you need a device, and money for the app. But beyond that, Damaged feels like a step towards the future of art – one that through smartphones and AR is democratised and readily available, rather than sealed in a gallery- (or warehouse-) sized box.

Shepard Fairey AR – Damaged is available for Android and iOS.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

An engaging exhibition, but also a pitch to a technological future that can open art up to the masses

Good Stuff

Various ways to navigate

Artist narration and notes

A great showcase for AR

Bad Stuff

You’ll want it to be higher res

Works best in a very large space

Profile image of Craig Grannell Craig Grannell Contributor


I’m a regular contributor to Stuff magazine and Stuff.tv, covering apps, games, Apple kit, Android, Lego, retro gaming and other interesting oddities. I also pen opinion pieces when the editor lets me, getting all serious about accessibility and predicting when sentient AI smart cookware will take over the world, in a terrifying mix of Bake Off and Terminator.

Areas of expertise

Mobile apps and games, Macs, iOS and tvOS devices, Android, retro games, crowdfunding, design, how to fight off an enraged smart saucepan with a massive stick.

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