Artist as Activist

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In the 1960s, Robert Rauschenberg began applying his innovative collage style to silkscreen prints that combined familiar images from popular culture and current events. Rauschenberg exemplified the role of artist as activist, as he consistently dedicated his art-making toward issue awareness and philanthropic support. Rauschenberg earned the title "artist-citizen" in praise of his artistic humanitarian efforts, in 1976 during his critically acclaimed retrospective at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

From the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI) tour—which was founded to create and tour artwork internationally in order to foster cross-border peace—to the creation of artworks especially for organizations in the fields of the environment and humanitarian efforts, Rauschenberg used his art to expand the dialogue about issues that required attention and investment. Among the subjects of Rauschenberg's prints were apartheid, nuclear disarmament, economic development, population control, and artists' rights. The organizations and causes for which he created prints and to which he often donated funds included the following:


· AIDS awareness and treatment

· Earth Day ozone awareness

· Mt. Everest Nature Preserve

· Natural Resources Defense Council

· Tibetan heritage preservation

· UN-related issues of population control and peacekeeping.


In 2012, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation launched its inaugural Artist as Activist print project, championing our founder's passion for using art as a vehicle for change. The program honored his legacy of creating prints and posters to heighten awareness of crucial issues and raise funds to advance humanitarian, international, and environmental goals.

In 2012, the inaugural Artist as Activist award was granted to Shepard Fairey, who worked with the Coalition for the Homeless in New York. A limited edition of one hundred signed prints commissioned from Fairey was made available for sale through Artnet Auctions, with all proceeds supporting the coalition.

The 2013 award was granted to Shirin Neshat, who created a series of prints entitled "Our House Is On Fire." Proceeds from this sale on Artspace will benefit an organization focused on strengthening human rights in Egypt. For more information, please see the press release.