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.Read More
Born at the end of the Second World War, Kiefer's early years were spent in Freiburg and Karlsruhe, studying with Peter Dreher and Horst Antes. During these years he 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'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.
Kiefer's artworks 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.
In more recent years, the subjects addressed in 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, the artist 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.
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, 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 the artist left his studio for Paris in 2008, La Ribaute still stands, where it has been left for further intervention by natural elements.
Kiefer's studio is also the subject of a 2010 documentary by Sophie Fiennes entitled Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow.
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 2004–15, 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