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\’Max\’ controversy in the life of this psychedelic artist

November 10, On This Day


It was a big scandal on November 10, 1997, when German-American artist Peter Max pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal district court to tax fraud and time served. He had concealed over $1.1 million in income from the US Internal Revenue Service in connection with the sales of his works between 1988 and 1991.

But that\’s not the only controversy he is known for. In 2019, New York Times published an explosive piece claiming that a now dementia-struck Max was being exploited for his artist\’s signature on artworks by ghost painters hired by some members of his family and professional circle. At last look, his guardianship was still subject to a legal imbroglio.

Today 84, Max is known for the use of psychedelic shapes and color palettes as well as spectra in his work. His works are typically associated with the visual arts and culture of the 1960s, particularly psychedelic art and pop art.

As German Jews, Max’s family had fled the Nazis — they subsequently lived in Shanghai, Haifa (Israel), Paris and finally, New York. His artistic talents were seen when he was young.

As an artist in the US, he worked in TV commercials and even solidified his place as a counter cultural icon by designing flyers for hippies. The United States Postal Service also commissioned Max to create the 10-cent postage stamp to commemorate the Expo \’74 World\’s Fair in Spokane, Washington, and Max drew a colorful psychedelic scene. He designed the cover photo of Aretha Franklin\’s Through the Storm album and painted 40 colourful portraits of Mikhail Gorbachev to celebrate his policy of glasnost and efforts to democratize the Soviet Union.


In 1990, Max was awarded the rights to a massive section of the Berlin Wall, which was installed on the battleship Intrepid. He chiseled a dove out of the wall and placed it on top, as a symbol of freedom.

His artwork was also featured on CBS\’s The Early Show where his \”44 Obamas,\” commemorating Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, was debuted.


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