Over the past four decades, Anselm Kiefer has produced a diverse body of work in painting, sculpture and installation that has made him one of the most important European artists of the past four decades.
After studying law, and Romance languages and literature, Kiefer devoted himself entirely to painting. He attended the School of Fine Arts at Fribourg-in-Brisgau then the Art Academy in Karlsuhe while maintaining contact with 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 German history and identity. In his muscular artistic language, physical materiality and visual complexity enliven his themes and content with a rich, vibrant tactility. His subject-matter ranges over sources as diverse as Teutonic mythology and history, alchemy and the nature of belief, all depicted in a bewildering variety of materials, including oil paint, dirt, lead, models, photographs, woodcuts, sand, straw and all manner of organic material. 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 2006 he showed a series of paintings based around the little-known work of modernist poet Velimir Chlebnikov (1885-1922). 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. He has lived and worked in France since 1993. He has exhibited widely, including solo shows at MoMA, New York (1987), Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1991), The Metropolitan Museum, New York (1998), Royal Academy, London (2001), Fort Worth Museum of Art, Fort Worth (2005) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006), Mass MoCA, Massachusetts, Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao and the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2007), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark (2010) and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (2011).