"Anselm Kiefer: For Velimir Khlebnikov" at the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
On view May 30 through September 3, 2017.
Located in the Nicholas Hall of the Winter Palace, the exhibition is organized by the State Hermitage Museum in close collaboration with the artist and in cooperation with Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London/Paris/Salzburg. Anselm Kiefer dedicated the exhibition to the great Russian poet Velimir Khlebnikov.
Anselm Kiefer is an artist whose work demonstrates a deep and diverse intellectual reflection. In his oeuvre he faces the themes of history, religion, literature, philosophy as well as the question of memory and heritage. One of the main source of inspiration for Kiefer is world culture in its widest perspective: German history, religious mysticism, antiquity, and Mesopotamian mythology.
Anselm Kiefer was born in 1945 in a little German town called Donaueschingen, a few months before the end of the Second World War. Researching the themes of guilt and pain, which paralyzed his generation, Kiefer, alongside Georg Baselitz and Gerhard Richter, became one of the first artists who blatantly addressed the topics of Nazism and the Holocaust.
In 1980 Kiefer represented Germany at the Venice Biennale. In the following years he had solo exhibitions held at the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Royal Academy of Arts in London as well as at the Grand Palais and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Anselm Kiefer is the only living artist to be part of the permanent display of the Louvre.
According to the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, “Anselm Kiefer’s art lodges in a strange spaciousness, as far from horrible as it is from decorative,”—two constants of contemporary art. His pictorial works—extensive, multilayered, three-dimensional—mark the revival of the history painting genre with its key concerns: memory and cultural myth. In a challenging manner, Kiefer explores layers of history by a distinct treatement of materials and texture, colours in his canvases are mixed with dust, soil, clay, rusted metal, straw and dry flowers.
In 1985 he acquired an obsolete roof of the Cologne cathedral: lead sheets became pages of his artist’s books, one of his central means of expression. Delving into the practice of Anselm Kiefer demands a viewer that is prepared for mystic compassion and an immersion into the whirling of rarified intellectual ideas.
In 2016, Anselm Kiefer, inspired by his visit to St. Petersburg, created a new exhibition project specially for the Hermitage Museum. It is in the triadic space of the colossal Nikolaevsky Hall of the Winter Palace that Kiefer chose to display around 30 new works dedicated to the Russian futurist-poet Velimir Khlebnikov (1885–1922).
For Kiefer, poetical production is often a starting point: “I think in pictures. Poems help me with this. They are like buoys in the sea. I swim to them, from one to the other. In between, without them, I am lost. They are the handholds where something masses together in the infinite expanse.”
One of Khlebnikov’s central ideas is that major pivotal naval and terrestrial battles endlessly repeat every 317 years. This foresight was for Kiefer a thread to reflect on themes of war and peace, the fugacity and finitude of all human aspirations and the mercilessness of fate. All the while, the exhibition “Anselm Kiefer, for Khlebnikov” is an ode to the sorrowful beauty of rusted vessels—these relics of wars once instilled fear and are now left at the uttermost points of the earth.
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