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Major Presentation of the German Artist Anselm Kiefer at Louisiana
Father, Son, Holy Ghost. Oil on canvas, 260 x 200 cm. Collection Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (long term loan, Fam. Sanders) Photo: © Peter Cox.

HUMLEBAEK.- Louisiana begins the autumn season with a major presentation of the German artist Anselm Kiefer, with 87 works ranging from the earliest years after his academy studies in 1969 until today. Kiefer’s works are one of the cornerstones of Louisiana’s collection. He has long been on the list of post-war artists the museum would like to show in this perspectivizing format. The exhibition will be shown in the period 10 September 2010 - 9 January 2011 and will round off Louisiana’s series of exhibitions over the past few years of the big German names of post-war art: Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter and Georg Baselitz.

Kiefer represents one of the most striking new departures in post-war Germany. The museum wants to highlight his activities over four decades with a number of central works presented as five loosely demarcated themes, each of which delineates central artistic issues in Kiefer’s art.

The exhibition, which is thus not chronologically structured, is being shown in the museum’s South Wing. The first room presents four major New Works: three large paintings and one sculpture. The three paintings can all be said to revolve around Kiefer’s lifelong effort to translate various notions of time – long historical time, close personal time, atomized and mythic time – into the language of painting. Constellations of stars and physical slashes in the space of the landscape insist on the existence of a dynamic History and an intense Now.

In the next room, with the theme Landscape. Mythology and Reality, we see the fateful fields of which Kiefer’s work is so full, and the German forest and architecture. Here we have placed the central works Dein goldenes Haar, Margarethe, and Dein aschenes Haar, Sulamith, from 1981, where the landscape, through the reference to the poet Paul Celan’s famous poem “Death Fugue”, is linked with the Nazi genocide of the Jews during the war. History has
been sedimented heavily here, but at the same time Kiefer’s original visual culture gives rise to a clear sense that it is open and unfinished. Attaching concrete physical material to the painted landscape is one of Kiefer’s methods of binding together the moment, the here and now, and the past.

The theme World Time - Life Time is another important concern for Kiefer, where the artist incorporates not only the world, but worlds. Here one can see among other works Sol Invictus, 1995, which is privately owned by the artist, and Sternenfall, 1995. Pictures like these hint at a mystical experience in the works, a vision that opens doors to new ideas of time, individuality and consciousness.

This is followed by the theme Iconoclastic Struggle, with the suite of eight paintings, Heroische Sinnbilder, from 1969-70, a series of pictures which once aroused a sensation by associating the artist himself, and thus art as such, with the cult and the historical crimes of Nazism. With his stagings Kiefer forced his idiom to a point where – even amidst the radically experimental spirit of the sixties – it appeared truly radical.

Finally, the exhibition shows, under thematic heading The Book, the crucial books Kiefer made in the early years. Kiefer’s books are unique, independent contributions to visual art, and although they can be seen as a prelude to the paintings, they are neither sketch books nor preliminary studies, but rather primal images and experiments with the unbounded idea.

That the present is born of the past is the constant premise throughout Kiefer’s oeuvre. For Kiefer this is mythic material exhibiting a high degree of both classical and historical elements, which nevertheless become our own time’s and the artist’s.

Language is one of the most important spurs to Kiefer’s imagination, and typically the related allusions appear directly in the works in the form of the artist’s characteristic handwriting in oil paint or charcoal. Assigning to the great, perspectivizing narratives a fundamental importance to humanity, as Kiefer does, clearly places his work beyond the social or popular-cultural focus of much of the art of Kiefer’s own time. For Kiefer it is the monumental questions that are raised – and broached – by the work.

Kiefer was born in 1945 in Donaueschingen. He trained at the academy of art in Karlsruhe in 1969 and later made contact with Professor Joseph Beuys in Düsseldorf. In 1980 he represented Germany at the Venice Biennale alongside Georg Baselitz. The exhibition was controversial and aroused attention outside Germany, especially in America. In 1992 the artist moved from his native Germany, first to Barjac in the south of France and later to Paris. Kiefer is represented in most important museums all over the world. In 2001, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art showed a more focused studio presentation, whose theme perspectivized Chairman Mao and his book “Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom”.

In 2008, Anselm Kiefer was awarded “Der Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels” (The Peace Prize of the German Booksellers), which was thus awarded for the first time to a visual artist.

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