Charles Krause spent most of his career digging for stories. Now he’s finding—and exhibiting—artists whose work impacts the world.
BY SAMUEL HUGHES | Photography by Candace diCarlo | PDF download
Charles Krause C’69 is sitting in the cool, curving, contemporary condo that functions as his home and his fine-art gallery. His expression is somewhere between serious and worried, though truth be told, his wooly-bear eyebrows make him look kind of anxious when he’s just making a pot of coffee. But Krause has had his full share of real things to worry about over the years, and he does now, too.
True, he’s no longer getting shot in places like Jonestown, as he did when he was the South American bureau chief for The Washington Post,or covering the breakup of the Soviet Union for PBS’s NewsHour, or crossing the Kuwaiti border in a tank with the Desert Storm troops during the first Gulf War. These days his concerns revolve around his Washington gallery, Charles Krause/ Reporting Fine Art—things like how to cover the costs of transporting art from Estonia (he can’t go to Russia because the Putin regime took away his visa), planning the minutiae of receptions and openings, and figuring out which art magazines give the biggest advertising bang for his buck (none, so far). Underlying it all is the larger question of whether he can make any money at this new and risky endeavor, which he has undertaken at an age when most of his peers are either retiring or trying to beef up their 401(k)s in the safest manner possible.
Which is not to say that he’s turned his back on world events. Part of Krause’s self-appointed mission is to showcase artists “whose work has influenced, or has been significantly influenced by, the great social and political upheavals of the 20th and 21st centuries.” The other part is to “change the way their work is seen, understood, and valued by museum curators, art collectors, policymakers,” and policy-conscious citizens.
“I’m trying to introduce art that hasn’t been seen in this country before, by artists whose work I think merits international recognition,” he says. “I’m also trying to redefine the values that go into aesthetics.”
Those are ambitious goals. They have also been roiling inside him for years. If journalism was his career—one that brought him his share of awards and plaudits—art has been his passion. Ever since he was a teenager from an art-loving family in Detroit, he saw himself opening his own gallery one day. (His high-school graduation present was any work he wanted from a local gallery; he chose a Calder lithograph.) That the gallery would open in his Logan Circle condo may not have been part of the original vision, though it does offer certain advantages of economy and convenience.
“What I’m doing now is an extension of the one career and an extension of something else that I have always also been interested in,” he says.
After his journalism career wound down, he took a hard look at the work he had gathered during his travels. By the standards of Serious Collectors, he concluded, his collection might be deemed scattered and unfocused—everything from an 18th-century oil portrait of the last Inca by an anonymous Peruvian artist, to the works of Soviet Nonconformist artists, to a Chilean abstract expressionist named Joan Belmar. But then he looked at it again, from another vantage point.
“And I thought, ‘The art of social and political change—that’s valid. And it has an impact that hasn’t been recognized,’” Krause says. That idea was worth exploring, he decided, though he had to be careful that it didn’t detract from the overall quality of the work being shown. “It still has to be great art,” he emphasizes. “Just because an image has an impact doesn’t mean it’s great art.”
He thinks about that a little more, then says:
“I guess what I’m saying is, ‘Here we are in the 21st century. We’ve been through abstract expressionism. We’ve been through postmodernism. We’ve been through all this stuff. How about art that actually impacts what happens in the world?’”