Friday, 22 February 2013

No Longer Ironic? Taking another look at Charles Krafft

In the United States, the creation of artistic works goes hand-in-hand with the First Amendment rights of individuals to speak.  That is, the First Amendment protects the creative freedom of artists to make pieces that may be shocking or politically critical and to openly discuss their works with others.

Seattle artist Charles Krafft is well known for his postmodern ceramics, which often incorporated delicately painted Nazi imagery such as his ceramic Hitler bust tea pots.  Common thinking on Krafft's work was that it was ironic, provocative, absurdist, and darkly satirical.  Krafft's pieces are held by museums and private collectors alike.

However, more recently, Krafft's public remarks and participation on a white nationalist podcast have led some to conclude that Krafft is a Holocaust denier and Nazi sympathizer.  While coverage of the issue began with local Seattle paper The Stranger, larger publications and art blogs also picked up the story.  These events have changed the manner in which his works are perceived by some and will likely affect how Krafft's pieces are valued and resold (creating taxation and estate planning issues for collectors).  As Phil Campbell wrote in the HuffPost Arts & Culture Blog, "We should be able to judge art apart from the personal politics of the artist, but Krafft's work doesn't allow for that."  While the First Amendment protects Krafft's controversial speech, Krafft's exercise of his rights may have a lasting, if not devastating, impact on his artistic legacy.

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