Today, Mattel Creations has released the latest addition to UNO’s Artiste Series, which finds their classic card game being reimagined with art from a number of amazing artists. Joining the series—which already features the likes of Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Nina Chanel Abney—is Shepard Fairey, who’s a living legend in his own right. The man behind OBEY and President Barack Obama’s 2008 “HOPE” campaign poster has brought his work to the card game series in the new deck, which is available now over at Mattel Creations.
“We are excited to partner with the renowned artist, Shepard Fairey,” said Richard Dickson, President and Chief Operating Officer at Mattel. “Through curated partnerships, Mattel Creations offers toys as art and art inspired by toys, and the UNO Artiste Series: Shepard Fairey collaboration is the embodiment of that philosophy.”
Fairey explains that for him, being a part of the UNO Artiste Series was a blend of being in good company with some phenomenal artists and a sense of nostalgia; he, like many of us, played UNO as a kid. “I’m always looking for ways with my work to put my ideas in front of people that aren’t already converted audience members of mine. Especially younger people, when their ideas about the world are forming. So I spoke with our crew and we came up with the idea that it would be an environmentally-themed series and that this would be all sustainable materials for the packaging so that there’s a consistency in message and practice there. And then also that there’s a charity component, too.”
The environmentally-friendly aspect of this pack shouldn’t be understated. Fairey’s UNO Artiste deck follows the launch of UNO’s Nothin’ But Paper, which Mattel describes as “the first fully recyclable UNO deck without cellophane packing materials, part of UNO’s plan to remove the cellophane from 100% of standard, paper-based decks entirely in 2021 and Mattel’s goal to achieve 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic materials across all products and packaging by 2030.” It’d make sense that the environmentally-conscious Fairey (who just painted a huge mural at the New England Aquarium’s Simons Theatre that says, in big bold letters, “PROTECT THE BLUE PLANET”) would link with UNO after that initiative kicks off.
Part of this project also has Mattel making a donation on behalf of Fairey to the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the oceans through federal and state legislation. “I think that it’s really exciting when you can blend doing something with a brand that is iconic and has a connection to your own life with also doing something meaningful for the world in both, hopefully getting people to think about the environment in general, but maybe some of their practices and products that they support. It all was the perfect synthesis of things that I care about.”
The actual deck, which is available for $20 over on Mattel Creations, may be a collector’s piece for some, but Fairey insists that idea is to, you know, open the box and interact and play a game of UNO with this deck that’s putting you on to environmentalism and spirituality while also just being ill cards to hold in your hands. “At the end of the day, the UNO deck has to function properly as an UNO deck. I’m sure there will be a few people that [will] collect it just to collect it, but really I want it to be used.”
The pack contains a mixture of images old (the pack features the iconic OBEY Giant on it) and works in progress ideas. “Because UNO is something for a lot of younger people,” Fairey explains, “I try to keep all the imagery stuff that was alluring and decorative and pretty, but also has a message to it. It’s not super heavy or agitational, like some of the stuff I do, but it’s a gateway into the ideas.
And so I looked with the UNO team at a lot of the art that I’d made in the past,” Fairey continues, “as well as work that I had in progress that was touching on a lot of these ideas. Once we decided on a bunch of the images, I then went through the process of looking at how they all worked with each other, because there needs to be a color system that works. They need to feel like they’re a unified, cohesive deck. That was a fun process—coming up with the color coding and the numbering system and everything. Because I’m an artist, but I’ve also worked as a graphic designer for a long time, these hybrid projects are fun for me.”
It also helps that, at the end of the day, the idea of this bomb-ass deck being a fully functioning game for all ages is to still be a game. The idea of the genesis of some of these ideals being sparked by a card game wasn’t lost on Fairey. “I’m older now,” he says, “but I’m still very optimistic about the power of youthful idealism. That’s still a part of who I am. I’ve said to myself many times: Age is a number, spirit is what matters.”
Outside of the release of this deck, Fairey has been working throughout the pandemic, and the fruits of that labor (outside of his UNO Artiste deck) will be sprinkled throughout the rest of the year, into 2022. “OBEY Clothing is something that I’m always working on,” Fairey says. “I just finished a new season of t-shirt graphics for that. That’s fun for me because I get to combine the stuff that I take very seriously socially and combine that with some stuff that’s a little more lighthearted that works in the fashion space. That’s fun, to be able to switch gears into that mode. Then I have two big museum shows in 2022. I have one in Seoul, Korea , and then one in Dallas, Texas at the Dallas Contemporary Museum. There’ll be mural projects that go with both of those. I’m doing a collaborative show with an English street artist who’s a really good friend of mine. Then a couple of other artists that have both shown at our gallery in LA and at D*Face’s StolenSpace Gallery in London.”
We’d leave it at that, but this sounds like a dope idea that we figured we'd just let Fairey explain the concept of this project that’s coming up in September. “D*Face brought this idea,” Fairey begins. “It’s me, D*Face, and this collective called Kai and Sunny who do really beautiful work. We’re doing a show that’s all pieces that we’ve combined imagery. We’ve sent each other physical materials, we’ve sent each other digital files—every piece will have a mashup of at least two of the artists. Some of my pieces have my work, D*Face’s work, and Kai and Sunny’s work. Some are just D*Face and Kai and Sunny or me and Kai and Sunny or me and D*Face. But it’s great. It’s really fun to do this because I DJ also, so that idea of how you find ways to plug two things together, bring things together and have them not only not compromise each other, but enhance each other. It’s just a fun exercise.”
That sounds a lot like Fairey and UNO linking up on a spiritually enlightened, activism-minded deck that will look great as a talking piece on your shelf, but is better suited as the deck the youth grab to run through a quick hand or two of UNO with friends and family, doesn’t it?
You can check out more images of Fairey’s UNO Artiste Series deck below. For more details on this deck, head over to Mattel Creations.