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BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES ON ANSELM KIEFER
Anselm Kiefer was born in 1945 in Donaueschingen, Germany. He studied law, literature, and romance languages before orienting himself entirely towards art, for which he attended the art academies of Freiburg and Karlsruhe. As a young artist and after his studies, Kiefer entered into contact with Joseph Beuys, to whom he showed his work at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.
After working in Buchen in the Odenwald, Germany, between 1971 and 1992, he moved to France. Since 1993 he has maintained a studio in Barjac in the south of France, and since 2007, he also has been working in the Paris region.
Anselm Kiefer’s oeuvre is an extensive and profound exploration of German post-war identity, collective memory, history, and myth; it encompasses painting, photography, sculpture, artist books, and works on paper. Often drawing upon poetry and literature, Kiefer creates complex artworks with symbolic materials such as lead, straw, sand, plants, books, and cloth. His process includes layering, hacking, burning, and weathering by the dictates of nature.
Since early in his career, Kiefer has also carried on the tradition of woodcut in his work. His woodcut collages, paintings, and artist’s books were shown at the 39th Venice Biennale in 1980, at which Kiefer represented West Germany along with Baselitz. This was the first major exhibition to present Kiefer’s work at an international scale.
Throughout the years that followed, Kiefer’s oeuvre crossed continents and was shown in Israel, Brazil, and the United States. In 1987, the Art Institute of Chicago presented the first retrospective of Kiefer’s work, which then traveled to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1988), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1988), and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1989).
In 1993, Melancholia—a traveling exhibition in Japan—was the last large-scale show of Kiefer’s work after he had moved from Germany and before he had resumed his artistic practice in Barjac. During the early-mid 1990s, Kiefer traveled to several countries in the Americas, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, developing his interest in different cultures from the east to west.
In 2007, he became the first artist to be commissioned to install a permanent work at the Louvre in Paris, since Georges Braque some 50 years earlier. The same year, he inaugurated the Monumenta exhibition series at the Grand Palais in Paris and had a retrospective at the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
He was appointed to the Chair of Artistic Creation in 2010 at the renowned Collège de France in Paris, where he delivered nine lectures entitled Art Will Survive Its Ruins. These lectures gave a personal account of the artist’s interest in history, myth, religion, mysticism, and poetry, as well as a description of his studios in France.
Kiefer’s fondness for books is central to his work, and is also evident in the creation of his own artist’s books. In 1990, the Kunsthalle Tübingen in Germany presented Anselm Kiefer: Bücher 1969-1990—the first major exhibition dedicated to Kiefer’s artist’s books. Since then, Kiefer’s books have also been shown in 2010 at Galerie Yvon Lambert, in 2015 at the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, and in 2019 at the Fondation Jan Michalski pour l’écriture et la littérature in Montricher, Switzerland and at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo, Norway.
More recently, retrospectives have presented the artist’s oeuvre, such as at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2014 and at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2015.
Over the years, Kiefer has received several prizes for his work, which include, among others: the Praemium Imperiale Prize in Tokyo, 1999; the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in Frankfurt, 2008; and the Prize for Understanding and Tolerance from the Jewish Museum in Berlin, 2019.
In 2020, upon the commission of French President Emmanuel Macron, Kiefer, together with Pascal Dusapin, created a series of works for the Panthéon in Paris, paying tribute to the writer Maurice Genevoix, and to the men and women of the First World War. Six vitrines by Anselm Kiefer and a musical work by Pascal Dusapin have been permanently installed, and two large-scale paintings were temporary on display.
Later that same year, Anselm Kiefer’s studio-estate La Ribaute in Barjac, France became a part of the Eschaton–Anselm Kiefer Foundation, which preserves and presents the works of Kiefer and those of other artists.
In 2022, Kiefer presented a new body of work in the Sala dello Scrutino of Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) in Venice. Coinciding with the 59th Venice Biennale, the exhibition took its title Questi scritti, quando verranno bruciati, daranno finalmente un po’ di luce from Andrea Emo, a Venetian philosopher whose thought on destruction being an integral part of creation parallels Kiefer’s artistic practice.
Kiefer’s work has been collected by major museums throughout the world including the MoMA, New York; The Metropolitan Museum, New York; The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; The Art Institute of Chicago; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Fort Worth Museum of Art; Mass MoCA, Massachusetts; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Albertina, Vienna; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo, Kyoto National Museum of Art, Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art; Louisiana Museum of Art, Humlebaek, Denmark; Astrup Fearnley Museet for Modern Kunst, Oslo, Norway; Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands; the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Centre Pompidou and the Louvre, Paris; Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel, among others.
La Ribaute’s visits allow guests to encounter a curated selection of Anselm Kiefer’s site-specific installations that illustrate the various moments of the artist’s decades-long career. All public visits take the form of guided tours, which were designed and developed by Kiefer himself as a way of sharing his former home and studio to the public.
The parcours includes a selection of key works, such as the amphitheater, crypt, towers, and tunnels that connect the underground and above-ground pavilions. With up to 18 visitors per tour, this visit allows for the public to immersively and intimately understand Kiefer’s creation of La Ribaute.
The 2023 season of visits is from April 19 – October 27 (with a break from August 6 – September 6 inclusive).
Further information on tours:
– conducted in either French, English, or German
– available on Wednesday (mornings) & Thursday and Friday (mornings and afternoons)
– last approximately 3 hours
– must be booked in advance online
Thematic, shorter tours of 1.5 hours are also offered this season.
For more information on this and how to visit La Ribaute, please visit: https://eschaton-foundation.com/visit-la-ribaute/
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