You may have watched the straight-talking immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief of infectious disease at the National Institutes of Health, at daily briefings from the White House and near-constant media appearances during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
But you’ve never seen him quite like this.
A project from San Francisco-area ad agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners challenged artists—everyone from seasoned pros to amateur doodlers—to immortalize Fauci in paintings, drawings, collage or any other medium of choice to “shine a light on the expert we know and hero we need right now,” says BSSP group creative director Sinan Dagli. “It’s a call to action to turn his image into a work of art.”
And the people have responded in ways both fantastical and downright fantastic: Fauci as Benjamin Franklin at the center of a C-note, Fauci as Steve Nash in a Phoenix Suns uniform, Fauci as Shepard Fairey’s Andre the Giant (“obey,” indeed!), Fauci as a warrior on horseback, Fauci as a Renaissance deity, complete with golden halo.
Phrases like “Keep calm and carry on,” “Truth” and “Stay the F*ck Home” are superimposed over his image in this consumer-created treasure trove, along with messages like “Hope” and “Listen.”
BSSP has launched an Instagram account @fauciart, to help feature some of the standout pieces, including work from popular artist @duhrivative, who shared his version of the scientist with his 18,000 followers. Momentum has built quickly in a short time on Imgur, logging 114,000 views and more than 300 comments.
Execs at BSSP, who plan to share the art in the real world whenever that’s possible, debuted #FauciArt as an internal initiative born of quarantine mandates and the resulting cabin fever. It also sprang from the desire to serve the public interest, said Dagli, who spearheaded the concept.
“Getting accurate information from the right sources can save lives,” he says. “Unfortunately, as a society, we tend to listen to celebrities or the loudest voices over qualified professionals.”
The goal of the art project was to turn Fauci, often called the country’s voice of reason during this crisis, into a pop cultural icon. Fauci has developed a large fan base in recent months through his media appearances, but he has also become a frequent target of some conservatives who feel his positions on quarantine and social distance are hurting the U.S. economy. For now, Fauci has maintained his position within the Trump administration, though many of his supporters fear he could be terminated if the president feels they’re out of sync.
To support Fauci, each department at BSSP created its own pieces, which ran the gamut from simple line drawings to elaborate reimaginings of famous artworks.
The idea grew from there, with invites to participate going out to well-known artists, advertising mavens and art school students. It’s now open to the home-bound populace, with BSSP “hoping that we can collective keep Dr. Fauci in the spotlight, right where we need him.”