University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


Maciej Toporowicz

Maciej Toporowicz was born in Bialystock, Poland and is a multimedia artist based in New York. His eclectic body of work explores human condition in context of culture, mortality and evanescence of life. Toporowicz's workObsession was quite controversial when it first came out. In 1994 he took his work to the streets by posting over 200 of his posters based on the Calvin Klein® perfume ads all over the city. Many who saw the ads assumed they were the actual ads and did not think anything of it, proving Toporowicz's point. Needless to say the project was not endorsed by Calvin Klein.

Artist's Statement

The sculpture by Arno Breker (known as Hitler's favorite sculptor) called Die Wehrmacht seems to be in perfect tune with contemporary advertisement. Many designers including Calvin Klein use images from German art and photography from the 1930s.

It comes as no surprise. Anybody who has seen Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of Will can agree that National Socialism created in Germany was the most successful advertisement campaign ever. There is ubiquitous emphasis on fitness and cult of body in the USA and elsewhere, which forces upon us an ubermensch type of human being. Instead of emphasizing the differences between people we should rather accept their diversities.

As we learned from the past...there is no ESCAPE from OBSESSION to ETERNITY. (From the obsession street action March-May 1994)

- Maciej Toporowicz


Artworks: Absence/Presence

Obsession, Escape, Eternity

obsession maleobsession eagleobsession eyeglassesobsession germany

escape limbsministry eternityescape shoesobsession toothbrushes

Individual poster images with "Obession," "Escape" and "Eternity" were originally designed as a "street action" in the SOHO district of New York City. The lettering intentionally juxtaposes the names of Calvin Klein perfumes and that company's style of advertising with images of the Third Reich. The "Obsession" series by Toporowicz is not endorsed by Calvin Klein.

Obsession Film: 1993

Obsession 1993 Toporowicz

Obsessionis an allegorical found footage film mix, featuring fragments of TV ads of Calvin Klein fragrances, feature films about the Nazis, and Leni Riefenstahl’s works from the 1930s. With added iconic images of the Third Reich – photos of Nazi architecture and sculptures by Albert Speer and Arno Breker.

Page updated 2013.