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b. 1945, Germany

Anselm Kiefer Biography

Anselm Kiefer is a German painter and sculptor, who rose to international prominence in the 1980s with his controversial critiques of post-war Germany's censorship of its Nazi past, creating physically imposing, encrusted works with unusual symbolic materials (such as lead, ash, varnish, clay, charcoal, and straw) and multiple references to European myth, literature, and history.

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Early Life

Born at the end of the Second World War, Anselm Kiefer's early years were spent in Freiburg and Karlsruhe, studying with Peter Dreher and Horst Antes. He also became interested in European history and the medieval belief systems of alchemy and the Kabbalah. He had some interaction with the provocative performance artist, Joseph Beuys, who had acted as Kiefer's informal tutor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.

Anselm Kiefer Paintings

Anselm Kiefer's painting are politically loaded, highly tactile, and hefty objects which are highly distinctive, with their sombre colouration and repeated references to German insignia, state architecture, heroic busts, and 'scorched earth' or forested vistas. They display an obsession with German culture: its antecedents and moral consequences, its historic accountability for following generations, and the fight against the erasure of memory. The paintings' scale, raw physicality, and sense of timelessness draw the viewer in, attempting to totally immerse them in the historic and ethical consequences of the Third Reich.

These unrelentingly symbolic images—such as To the Unknown Painter (1983), with its depiction of the courtyard of Hitler's Chancellery, or Shulamite (1983), with its huge rendered Wilhelm Kreis memorial, the Soldatenhalle in Berlin—all steeped in German history and now European catastrophe, make Kiefer instantly identifiable.

Anselm Kiefer's Studio

In 1992, Kiefer moved to Barjac, a town in the South of France, where he established his home and studio on a 35-acre plot of land belonging to an abandoned silk factory. Over time, Anselm Kiefer's studio evolved into a sprawling complex of interventions in the landscape named La Ribaute. Acting as both an art installation and an exhibition venue, the site encloses an extensive system of buildings housing artwork, studio spaces, and archives, in addition to monumental towers and a series of underground tunnels. Although Kiefer left his studio for Paris in 2008, La Ribaute still stands, where it has been left for further intervention by natural elements.

Anselm Kiefer Documentary

Kiefer's studio is also the subject of a 2010 documentary by Sophie Fiennes entitled Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow.

Recent Work

In more recent years, the subjects addressed in Anselm Kiefer's artworks have expanded to include non-German-specific themes like Norse legends, the occult, string theory, astronomy, and with watercolour: delicate pink flowers and female nudes. In Keifer's For Velimir Khlebnikov: The Doctrine of War: Battles (2004–2010), with its attached lead submarine centrally positioned, Kiefer salutes the great experimental Russian poet Velimir Khlebnikov, someone Kiefer obviously regards as an innovative kindred spirit, and who wrote poems predicting sea battles.

Anselm Kiefer's sculpture Uraeus (2020) was his first U.S. commissioned public sculpture, and comprises a large open lead book resting on a 'podium' of 30-feet-wide, open eagle wings at the Rockefeller Centre. It is supported on a 20-foot-high stainless steel pole, up which advances a coiled lead serpent. Like attracts like.


Anselm Kiefer's exhibitions include Field of the Cloth of Gold, Gagosian, Le Bourget (2021); Provocations: Anselm Kiefer at the Met Breuer, Met Breuer, New York (2017); For Louis-Ferdinand Céline: Voyage au bout de la nuit, Copenhagen Contemporary, Denmark (2017); The Woodcuts, Albertina Museum, Vienna (2016); Regeneration Series: Anselm Kiefer from the Hall Collection, NSU Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (2016); In the Storm of Roses, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, Austria (2015); Anselm Kiefer: Paintings, Sculptures & Installations, Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, Miami (2015); Anselm Kiefer, L'alchimie du livre, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris (2015); The Seven Heavenly Palaces 200415, Hangar Bicocca, Milan (2015); and Anselm Kiefer: Beyond Landscape, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York (2013).

Recent group exhibitions he has participated in include Remembering Tomorrow: Artworks and Archives, White Cube, Hong Kong (2018); Proof of Life, Weserburg Museum of Modern Art, Bremen, Germany (2018); Melancholia. A Sebald Variation, Somerset House, London (2017); Dioramas, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2017); Golem! Avatars d'une légende d'argile, Musée d'Art d'Historie du Judaïsme, Paris (2017); In the Cage of Freedom, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany (2016); Dream States, Contemporary Photography and Videos, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2016); Eurasia: A View on Painting, Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris (2014); and BAD THOUGHTS: Collection Marijn and Jeanette Sanders, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2014).

Anselm Kiefer's artworks are in all the major international art collections.

John Hurrell | Ocula | 2021

Anselm Kiefer Featured Artworks

für Andrea Emo by Anselm Kiefer contemporary artwork painting
Anselm Kieferfür Andrea Emo, 1978–2017Emulsion, acrylic, oil, shellac, plaster, lead and charcoal canvas
160 x 103 x 20 cm
White Cube Contact Gallery
Siegfried's difficult way to Brünhilde by Anselm Kiefer contemporary artwork sculpture
Anselm KieferSiegfried's difficult way to Brünhilde, 2014Glass, metal, ceramic, volcanic stone and black and white photograph
190 x 80 x 70 cm
White Cube Contact Gallery
Bleierne Zeit by Anselm Kiefer contemporary artwork painting
Anselm KieferBleierne Zeit, 1976–2017Emulsion, acrylic, oil, shellac, lead, metal and wire on canvas
108 x 150 x 27 cm
White Cube Contact Gallery
Himmelspaläste by Anselm Kiefer contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Anselm KieferHimmelspaläste, 1987–1991Emulsion, oil and straw on canvas
282 x 190 x 20 cm
Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art Contact Gallery
Die Klugen Jungfrauen by Anselm Kiefer contemporary artwork mixed media
Anselm KieferDie Klugen Jungfrauen, 2007Acrylic dried branch, plaster emulsion, glue, wire, lead on cardboard mounted on canvas
112.38 x 55.38 inches
Sundaram Tagore Gallery Contact Gallery

Anselm Kiefer Recent Exhibitions

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Anselm Kiefer Represented By

Gagosian contemporary art gallery in 980 Madison Avenue, New York, USA Gagosian Athens, Basel, Beverly Hills, Geneva, Hong Kong, Le Bourget, London, New York, Paris, Rome, San Francisco
White Cube contemporary art gallery in Mason's Yard, London, United Kingdom White Cube Aspen, Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris

Anselm Kiefer In Ocula Magazine

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Anselm Kiefer In Related Press

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Anselm Kiefer In Video & Audio

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