It was an irresistible invitation to attend the private view of Anselm Kiefer’s 30 year retrospective at the Centre Pompidou on Tuesday December 15th followed by a dinner with the artist. Scheduling only a couple of days for the trip, we headed on Monday afternoon to the Palais de Tokyo to view various exhibitions including “Exit” which totally disturbed us. It is an idea by Paul Virilio (Video), a dynamic cartography created by the architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, presented on the occasion of the COP21, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change. It is based on statistical data illustrating the climactic, economic and political migrations of our time. It was first created for the exhibition “Native Land, Stop Eject” at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in 2008. This is a short and updated version. “The current asylum crisis makes the 2015 presentation of Exit more timely and relevant than ever.”
On Tuesday evening we arrived at the Pompidou to realize that the museum was only open to a small group of invited guests. In each gallery, special guides were available to answer questions and discuss the works. This is the ultimate way to enjoy an artist’s exhibition. Born in Donaueschingen, Germany in 1945, as a young artist, Kiefer bore the heavy burden of the war and became obsessed with the history of the Nazis. His mission was to find out what had happened. Kiefer was influenced by his teacher, Joseph Beuys who used fat and felt, while he used lead, earth and archaic materials, as well as charred wood and plants. He developed his own language to express the horrors and devastation of World World II. There are approximately 150 works in the exhibition including early ones, dealing with the Holocaust from the 1970’s as well as works from the 1980’s concerning Jewish mysticism and the Kabbalah, based on his travels to Israel in 1984, coinciding with his solo exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. An aura of melancholy and devastation permeates this superb installation. He has been living in France since the 1990’s in Barjac.
Anselm Kiefer, Osiris und Isis, 1985-1987. Image courtesy Anselm Kiefer, photo Ben Blackwell.