Anselm Kiefer in Paris, February 2016

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Two exhibitions, one of his books at the French national library and the other a retrospective at the Pompidou Centre.

Pompidou Centre, Anselm Kiefer

Organised chronologically but also on Keifer’s familiar themes of confronting Nazism and the German past, German mythology, Jewish mythology, literature, his own reflections on death, decay and the human condition. Includes massive paintings, vitrines and a whole room for one installation.

I struggle to find words to describe such a massive exhibition. After the RA exhibition in London, I was in two minds about Kiefer. Our friend New York artist Simon Dinnerstein said to me in Paris that his response to Kiefer had gone through three stages – firstly thinking that he was a monstrous egotist, second that he was super pretentious, and finally concluding that Kiefer was the ‘real deal’, a monumental figure. I think I’ve followed the same path myself.

The last room is the installation created especially for the exhibition – called Madame de Staël- de l’Allemagne – a reference to the French 19th 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, which represent different figures.

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Kiefer’s books 1968 – 2015

Kiefer refers to the books as “a repertoire of shapes and as many ways to materialise the notion of time. For me each book conceals an unfurling wave that I make visible when I turn the pages…”

A large room, filled with hundred’s of Kiefer’s books, some in glass cases, some up to 9 feet tall, but mostly just stacked on shelves. Our friend artist Simon Dinnerstein turned some of the pages, curious to see if they were all filled, and they were. Most on the shelves could not be viewed, just a few opened so we could glimpse.

On Kiefer’s themes, outlined above, the books are described as ‘the cornerstone’ of his art, some are wonderful ‘sketchbooks’ and many, works in themselves. The books use a multitude of media – paper, photos, copies, inks, paint layers, clay, ash, lead, and different forms – inspiring, to say the least.

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