An Interview with Peter Max

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If you have ever been on a cruise ship, and strolled through an art auction, you have seen Peter Max’s work. Frankly, if you have seen any art in the past half century, chances are you have seen his work. From United States flags to the Statue of Liberty, the colorful, iconic works can been seen, it seems, everywhere. Naturally, when I heard Mr. Max was coming to Key West for an exhibit, I lined up an interview ahead of the show. We discussed life in Israel, politics and his five cats. The day we spoke it was a glorious 72 sunny degrees in Key West, and hovering somewhere around arctic in New York. Clearly he is looking forward to his return visit to the Southernmost city. 

Originally from Berlin, as World War II began, Jacob and Salla Finkelstein moved their family, including the young Peter, to Shanghai, to a Jewish enclave to escape the war. they would stay in China ten years, with one of those years spent in Tibet. From there, in 1948, the Finkelstein family moved to Israel. Living there as the country was beginning to develop was according to Max, “fantastic. I started painting in Israel. It is a beautiful country.”

He went on, “I started painting more and more, and then I started thinking ‘Wait. This is something I can do professionally.’ I got so good at it, and I loved painting. It became what I did.”

By the time Peter Max was twelve years old, he had already traveled extensively, with memories and experiences that would later prove inspirational in his work. “My parents moved to China, and from there to Israel, on to Paris and from there, New York. We traveled my whole life. It was very nice,” says Max.

But how did Lady Liberty and the American Flag become emblems of his life’s work, I asked? “Well, America was an unbelievable, creative, wild country. It was something that could not be dismissed. I got involved, and surrounded by it, and was something I was doing all the time. It was amazing.”

Peter Max is an animal lover and an animal rights activist. “I just love animals, and have become involved in many scenarios. It is a wonderful thing to be able to do.” He even helped a cow escape slaughter in the midwest a few years ago. When I asked if he was still involved in animal rights activism today, he said, “Yes! It is a major subject in my life.” And then we spent a few minutes discussing our respective pets (he has 5 cats, and did not seem the least bit bothered that I am more a dog person).

Finally, I had to bring up the dreaded “P” word. I know that Mr. Max has painted numerous presidents and political figures, even painting 44 portraits of President Obama, representative of him being the 44th president. So, I had to ask, “Who do you think you will be painting next in the White House?”

His response? “Whoever it is, I will paint them.” And just like that, my one (not so) provocative question was shut down. Peter Max was not going to play the part of political strategist with the Florida Keys Girl.


A newly-curated collection by artist legend, Peter Max’s exquisite paintings will be on exhibition and available for acquisition in a presentation at Key West Gallery, 601 Duval Street.  Included in the Collection are Max’s iconic Valentine’s Day artworks.

Peter Max will make two very special appearances at the gallery and all appearances are complimentary and open to the public with RSVP’s required. Previews begin February 8th, 2015, with two scheduled Meet the Artist receptions on Saturday, February 13th, 2016 from 1-4 pm and 7-10 pm.   All artworks are on exhibition and available for acquisition.  RSVP’s are required: 305.292.9339