Anselm Kiefer’s prolific output has resulted in a body of work comprised of painting, installation, sculpture, printmaking and photography which often incorporates symbolic, primal materials such as lead, clay and ash. One of the most important European artists of his generation, he examines, uncompromisingly, historical themes and, the legacy of recent European events. Drawing on literature, politics, religion and philosophy, Kiefer often revisits particular subject matter or imagery, creating work that resonates with the notion of history as one continuous cycle.
After studying law, Romance languages and literature, Kiefer devoted himself entirely to painting. He attended the School of Fine Arts at Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Germany, then the Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe, Germany while maintaining contact with one time tutor Joseph Beuys, but soon began to develop his own deliberately indigenous set of subjects and symbols that he used to explore the fraught territory of Germany’s past and national identity. In his artistic practice, physical materiality and visual complexity enliven subject matter and content with a rich, vibrant tactility. His themes range from Teutonic mythology to alchemy and the nature of belief, explored through a bewildering variety of mediums incorporating all manner of organic material including soil, lead, sand and straw. By adding found materials to the painted surface of his immense tableaux, he invents a compelling third space between painting and sculpture. Recent work has broadened his range yet further and in 2019 - 2020 he showed a series of paintings based around ‘string theory’, which is a mathematical model that attempts to articulate the four known fundamental interactions of the universe and forms of matter.
In 2020 Anselm Kiefer was honoured with a permanent installation of his work in the Panthéon in Paris. Commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron, it is the first time since 1924 that such a commission has been effectuated for the Panthéon. Few contemporary artists match Kiefer's epic reach, and his work consistently balances powerful imagery with acute critical analysis.
Anselm Kiefer was born in Donaueschingen, Germany in 1945 and has lived and worked in France since 1993. He has exhibited widely, including solo shows at Franz Marc Museum, Kochel, Germany (2020); Couvent de la Tourette, Lyon, France (2019); Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo (2019); The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg (2017); Albertina Museum, Vienna (2016); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2015); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2014); Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2011); Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (2011); Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark (2010); Grand Palais, Paris (2010); Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain (2010); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006); Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2005); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1998); Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1991) and The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1987). In 2019 Kiefer was awarded the prestigious Prize for Understanding and Tolerance by the Jewish Museum in Berlin, and in 2017 he was awarded the J. Paul Getty Medal. In 2007 Kiefer became the first artist since Georges Braque 50 years earlier to be commissioned to install a permanent work at the Louvre, Paris. In 2009 he created an opera, Am Anfang, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Opéra National de Paris.