On Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, New York Times bestselling author Kurt Andersen appeared on MSNBC to promote his newest book (Evil Geniuses) and discuss how people like President Donald Trump and his ilk have shaped America’s economy. Kurt was participating in the interview remotely, so viewers got a glimpse of his home.
Behind Kurt, and just above his marble fireplace, there hung a striking art print. It featured what looks like an exploding black circle with the words “VORSICHT KUNST!” emblazoned along the bottom. Obviously, people began wondering what “Vorsicht Kunst” means. We can help with that!
What does “Vorsicht Kunst!” mean?
No, “Vorsichut Kunst!” isn’t some kind of hidden message or secret code. It’s just German — which makes sense, as the artist who made the original work is also German. His name is Klaus Staeck, and he’s a lawyer who is also known for his political graphic design work. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, the 82-year-old artist said, “My hope is to have a disruptive influence.”
Klaus’ satirical, political art has done just that ever since he first started making it back in the 1960s. Over the past several decades, Klaus has used his art to defend workers’ rights, women’s rights, free speech, and the environment. On occasion, that’s led to the people and companies he “disrupts” slapping him with a number of lawsuits — at least 41 so far, all of which he has won.
The “Vorsicht Kunst!” piece might be one of Klaus’ best-known works — it looks like he uses a portion of it as the logo on his official website. As for the meaning of the emphatic message at the bottom of the piece, it translates to “Caution Art!” or “Beware of Art!” If you look closely at the piece, you can see the names of artists such as Picasso, Warhol, and Darboven dotted among the exploding black circle.
We certainly don’t claim to be art experts or anything, but it seems as though the piece’s graphic black-and-yellow appearance (paired with the exclamation at the bottom of it) means it functions as a sort of tongue-in-cheek caution sign about the “dangers” of art. Given what we know of Klaus’ art, that all seems to track.
We’re guessing that author Kurt Andersen probably wasn’t expecting his choice of library art to lead us all to a joint art history lesson, but here we are. You can’t deny that the poster definitely catches the eye (but shoutout to that dark green color the room is painted, too!). Even @ratemyskyperoom — the Twitter account that has rated people’s home decor during Skype and Zoom interviews throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — took notice. (Kurt’s room got a 9/10 — not bad!)
Anyway, thanks to Kurt Andersen’s taste in art, Klaus Staeck’s legacy, and (bizarrely enough), the COVID-19 pandemic and the virtual interviews we’ve become so used to these days, we all now know a little bit more about art history and the German language. Who knew a random internet search could end up being so educational?