Anselm Kiefer at his best…

Heroisches Sinnbild III, 1970-71

Heroisches Sinnbild III, 1970-71, a self portrait wearing his father’s army boots

I ran into a friend who had seen the exhibition at the pre-pre-opening and told me « it’s very dark, very pessimistic »… Well I am glad I did not listen to her. The Anselm Kiefer retrospective at Centre Pompidou is one of the most powerful, luminous and exciting event that happened this year in Paris. And you have until April 18 th to run and see it.

Varus, 1976, Collection Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven Photo : © Jochen Littkemann, Berlin

Varus, 1976, Collection Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven Photo : © Jochen Littkemann, Berlin. The name refers to the Roman governor of Germania who lost his army at the battle of the Teutoburg forest

The first artist to be invited in 2008 at Monumenta, a major event that takes place at Grand Palais every year, Anselm Kiefer is unique in his style and intellectual training. Both exhibitions at Centre Pompidou and at Bibliothèque Nationale are concentrated on a few distinctive themes with books at its chore.

Ouroboros, Private collection Photo : © Georges Poncet

Ouroboros, Private collection Photo : © Georges Poncet, books are omnipresent in his life and work

Trained in Düsseldorf, he started in the 1970’s with historical works who could have been mistaken with nationalist deviations or reawakenings of a grevious past. His technique of mixing clay, plaster, straw, ashes, iron or food in his canvases, has made him a very special artist.

Brünhilde schläft, 1980

Brünhilde schläft, 1980, is part of an erotic series

In the first of the 13 rooms at Centre Pompidou, the freshness of his dark earlier works struck me. « Heroisches Sinnbild » (self portraits with a nazi salute) and burnt books give the pulse of the exhibition, which allies (in 150 works) installations and huge canvases.

The second room devoted to watercolors on paper and books, is very poetic with « Allen Tage Abend, allen abende Tag » and then comes a more erotic room with « Brünhilde schläft », 1980.

« In his large studio of Barjac, in the south of France, he decided to go beyond the traditional scale of artworks », says curator Jean Michel Bouhours.

Für Paul Celan

Für Paul Clean, Aschenblume, private collection, © Charles Duprat

And the result can be admired in his « For Paul Celan », a monumental canvas where burnt books seem to be flying towards the visitor on a seven meter wide field. I wish there had been a seat in front of it and then I would have stayed there all morning watching it, I was so mesmerised.

Die Orden der Nacht, 1996, Seattle Art Museum Photo : © Atelier Anselm Kiefer

Die Orden der Nacht, 1996, Seattle Art Museum Photo : © Atelier Anselm Kiefer

One room is particularly striking « Value of Ruins » with 4 large canvases with temples all around. As early as the 70’s (he was born in 1945), the materials he uses become non academic. Straw and ashes are a strong element. As are his show windows towards the end of the exhibition with sculptures imprisoned in them. « Die Orden der Nacht », a painting with high and strong sunflowers, and « Böse Blumen » one of the rare colourful painting, testify to his love of flowers.

Pour Madame de Staël, De l'Allemagne, 2015

Pour Madame de Staël, De l’Allemagne, 2015

In the last room, Anselm Kiefer created an installation especillay for his show. It is called « Madame de Staël- de l’Allemagne » a reference to the French 19 th century writer who, in 1813, wrote about German romanticism and the benefits of emotion guiding inspiration. It is made of sand and different mushrooms painted on cardboard. Its dark colors do not affect its romanticism.

Aller Tage Abend, aller abends Tag, watercolour 2014

Aller Tage Abend, aller abends Tag, watercolour 2014

It is a bore to go all the way East to Bibliothèque Nationale but you will be happy you went when you see the incredible room with large bright canvases “Lichtung”, 2015 and installations “the Lost letter”, 2012, an old typography press invaded by sunflowers.  A bonus after the Beaubourg exhibit.

(Centre Pompidou until Aprill 18 and Bibliothèque Nationale de France until February 7)

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