Anselm Kiefer is one of the most significant voices of his generation and has achieved critical acclaim for his monumental body of work, which directly addresses questions of collective memory and national identity in Germany after World War II. His works incorporate a broad range of cultural, literary, and philosophical allusions, with diverse references to religion, mysticism, and mythology. Accordingly, the form of the book itself has become a central motif in his 50-year oeuvre evoking an accumulation of knowledge, storytelling, and culture.
Kiefer’s conversation at The New School with noted British art historian Richard Calvocoressi accompanies Public Art Fund’s upcoming exhibition, Uraeus, the artist’s first site-specific outdoor public sculpture in the United States. Located at the top of Rockefeller Center’s Channel Gardens, facing Fifth Avenue, this large-scale sculpture, full of symbolic resonance, will rise more than 20 feet above the ground, creating a majestic image: a book with wings outstretched as if in flight. Clustered around the base are further outsize lead books, while a large snake coils up the column towards the winged-book. As repositories for human knowledge and expression, books are powerful symbols in the artist’s work and when paired with wings uplifted and outstretched, give the impression of these ideals taking flight as if in triumph. Paradoxically, the book is made of lead, the heaviest of all base metals and one of Kiefer’s preferred materials for its soft, fluid properties, while the mammoth 30-foot wing-span is also fashioned from the thick, alchemical material. Uraeus extends his vocabulary of striking mythic forms, presented at an arresting new scale. It explores longtime motifs in his work that, in this context and contemporary moment, resonate in powerful new ways.
Anselm Kiefer: Uraeus is presented by Gagosian and organized by Public Art Fund
and Tishman Speyer. It will be on view from May 2 – July 22, 2018 at the Fifth
Avenue entrance to Rockefeller Center’s Channel Gardens between 49th and 50th
Streets in Midtown Manhattan.
image: ANSELM KIEFER
Uraeus, 2017 – 2018
lead, stainless steel
298 x 441 x 346 1/2 inches
757 x 1120 x 880 cm
© Anselm Kiefer. Photograph Georges Poncet. Courtesy Gagosian, Public Art Fund, and Tishman Speyer
The New School, Tishman Auditorium
63 Fifth Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets
About the Artist
Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945, Donaueschingen in Baden-Württemberg, Germany) has lived and worked in France since 1993, and since 2007 has worked in Paris. After studying law, and Romance languages and literature, he devoted himself entirely to art. He attended the School of Fine Arts at Freiburg-im-Breisgau then the Art Academy in Karlsruhe while maintaining contact with Joseph Beuys. Kiefer’s work has been collected by and shown at major museums throughout the world including Philadelphia Museum of Art (1987); Museum of Modern Art, New York (1988); The Art Institute of Chicago (1988); Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1991); The Metropolitan Museum, New York (1998); Fort Worth Museum of Art (2005); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006); Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao (2007); Louisiana Museum of Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (2010); Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2011); Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (2011); Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, MA (2013); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2014); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2015); and Nova Southeastern University Art Museum, Florida (2016). In 2007, he became the first artist to be commissioned to install a permanent work at the Louvre, Paris, since Georges Braque some fifty years earlier. The same year, he inaugurated the Monumenta exhibitions series at the Grand Palais in Paris, with works paying special tribute to the poets Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann. Kiefer was awarded the Praemium Imperiale Prize in Tokyo in 1999, the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 2008, the Leo Baeck Medal of the Leo Baeck Institute, New York, in 2011 and the J. Paul Getty Medal of the J. Paul Getty Trust in New York in 2017. In 2010 Kiefer was appointed to the Chair of Artistic Creation at the renowned Collège de France in Paris, where he delivered nine lectures entitled Art will survive its ruins.