German state prosecutors in Munich have dropped the criminal charges brought against the controversial enfant terrible of contemporary German art, Jonathan Meese, for repeatedly emulating the Nazi salute, Art Magazin reports.
In Germany, emulating or displaying Nazi symbolism is illegal and carries a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment.
Meese faced criminal charges after raising his right arm in a Nazi salute several times during a performance titled The Dictatorship of Art at a literature festival in the Bavarian capital last November. He has previously performed the Nazi salute on numerous different occasions.
In his performance at the literature festival, the artist expressed his frustration after being dismissed from the Bayreuth Festival as director of the Wagner Opera Parsifal. Meese controversially pronounced that there has been no powerful performance at Bayreuth since 1945: “the last strong production was Hitler,” he declared (see Jonathan Meese Lambasts Bayreuth Festival Following Dismissal).
A judicial spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday that the 45-year-old Meese was cleared of charges of using symbolism of a former national socialist organization.
Meese’s lawyer said “This appearance should be considered as a performance and therefore a work of art.” He went on to say that the audience, who paid €12 for the event, knew what to expect. According to the lawyer the case is the fourth lawsuit against his client “that has ended with an acquittal.”
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