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May, 2006 - Nr. 5


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Berlin Academy of the Arts
A Bitter Heritage

Berlin Academy of the Arts names new president

TWIG - Art is seldom divorced from politics, a fact that was reaffirmed last Saturday (April 29) when the Berlin-based Academy of the Arts named the politically engaged graphic artist, author, and entrepreneur Klaus Staeck its new president.

"What are these times in which a satirist is elected president?" Staeck joked in the opening remarks of an inaugural speech he gave on the Academy steps - following a long-held tradition at the organization.

Staeck is arguably one of the most influential German graphic artists of the past century, having designed posters and images that have implanted themselves in German consciousness - and school history textbooks.

His posters - many of them for the center-left Social Democratic Party - combine an in-your-face pragmatism with startling images and bold graphics. One of his posters shows a dozen babies sleeping in hospital beds and reads: "These are the people who we expect to pay our debts."

A retrospective of Staeck’s most successful graphic designs called "Klaus Staeck-Nothing is Done," is currently traveling the country, with stops in Cottbus, Chemnitz and Hamburg.

Staeck was chosen by what is said to have been a large majority of the Academy’s 370 members to replace outgoing president Adolf Muschg, who stepped down in December, 2005, over disagreements concerning the Academy’s direction.

Saying that he would not allow the Academy to become just another institute participating in "a landscape of event culture," Staeck, in his first speech, implored members: "We have to blow our horns loud, but must also be able to strum the harps softly."

The election of Staeck came as a surprise to many but was greeted warmly by German newspapers, with the Berlin daily Die Welt publishing an editorial on "why Klaus Staeck is the right president."

"Klaus Staeck fits in our intellectual world. The feeling that they did the right thing spread through the Academy’s members over the weekend, even those whose political or aesthetic leanings come from completely different worlds," Die Welt wrote.

Staeck is seen as the right man to bring the Academy - a 300-year-old institute - into the new millennium and give it a voice as prominent as its new headquarters within sight of the Brandenburg Gate.

He is joined by new Vice President Nele Hertling, founder of the Hebbel Theater. Together, they will try to find common ground among a roster of illustrious members including film director Wim Wenders and Volker Schloendorff, authors Martin Walser and Guenter Grass, artists Bruce Nauman and Rosemarie Trockel, architect Oswald Matthias Ungers, and actors Pina Bausch and Ingmar Bergman.
Republished with permission from "The Week in Germany"


Academy of the Arts


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