Background 1920s 1980s Present Day

Klaus Staeck is the "elder statesman" of post-war European political montage. If anyone has taken up the mantle of John Heartfield and single-mindedly devoted himself to the cause, it is Staeck. He is a man of many parts: lawyer, politician, organiser, publisher, author, and television contributor, but most of all, he is a political artist. For over 30 years he has made posters. In the tradition of early agitprop, he has taken his art onto the streets with postcards, stickers and flyers.

His main subjects have remained constant throughout these years. They are freedom of speech, peace, the environment, poverty, and the constant struggle against political hypocrisy. He wants his work to "make people aware of the lies and the madness in which we all live." To these ends, he produces posters of often stunning simplicity. Very much in the tradition of Heartfield, he uses text brilliantly, often combining a caption with a single image to make his point.

Although many posters have been commissioned by, or designed with, the cooperation of many political groups, Staeck and his partner Gerhard Steidl have established a financially independent structure that allows them to take full responsibility for manufacturing and distribution. Their engagement with the commercial world through "Edition Staeck" in Heidelberg is totally on their own terms, and has often taken their messages into the mainstream through the renting of commercially-used advertising spaces.

The desire to spread his messages by all means has resulted in many protracted court battles, where Staeck's status as a qualified lawyer has been put to good use. Many of his political opponents have tried to gag him, but no court has ever ruled that he must withdraw his work. But in spite of the fact that he has mounted over 2,ooo solo exhibitions in every kind of venue from galleries to the streets, the postcard still remains paramount for Staeck.

"My cards are sold in galleries and in station book shops, in art museums and at flea markets. Nowadays some museums and book shops are becoming more cautious, since they prefer to protect visitors from political themes...but there is as yet no decree that has classified certain postcards as dangerous goods which cannot be transported. However, I do not wish to deny that postcards can be subversive. Art is always a risk and in the form of a card it is also highly mobile. Postcards do not unfold their actual strength until they are on their journey."

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Klaus Staeck



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