Anselm Kiefer’s paintings and sculptures are filled with references to the past. In the almost fifty
years since he began working as an artist in post-war Germany, he has found inspiration in
historical events, literature, poetry, alchemy, astronomy, chemistry, and religion. This installation
includes four paintings and four lead sculptures of airplanes. These works, monumental in size,
have never been exhibited before.
Kiefer has been making lead airplane sculptures since the late 1980s. The pieces in this
exhibition, with their battered, war-weary aura, dominate a 1500-square-meter space. The
allegorically significant airplanes are juxtaposed and converse with a series of paintings that
measure up to 6.6m in height and 11.4 meters in width. The paintings contain references to
photographs the artist took during his travels in the Gobi Desert in 1993 and also to a scene in the
Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann’s Book of Franza (1955), in which the title character
unsuccessfully seeks solace in the barrenness of the desert.
With his choice of the exhibition title, Kiefer dedicates the installation to the French writer LouisFerdinand
Céline’s book “Voyage au bout de la nuit” (Journey to the End of the Night) from 1932,
which describes the demise of European humanism in the trenches of World War I. Famous for its
gallows humour and world-weary misanthropy, the book is a darkly humorous and grotesque
description of the meaninglessness and evil of war. In light of current political events, Kiefer’s
decision to give this book renewed attention is unlikely to be a random choice.
The multiplicity of references and the diversity of materials can be—although not necessarily
should be—interpreted as alluding to the philosophy of Emanationism, which holds that all things
flow from and return to one infinite entity.
ABOUT ANSELM KIEFER
Anselm Kiefer was born in Donaueschingen, Germany in 1945 and has lived and worked in France
since 1993. After studying law, and Romance languages and literature, Kiefer devoted himself
entirely to painting. He attended the School of Fine Arts at Freiburg im Breisgau, then the Art
Academy in Karlsruhe He has exhibited widely, including solo shows at MoMA, New York (1988);
Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1991); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1998); Fort Worth
Museum of Art, Texas (2005); the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006); Mass MoCA,
Massachusetts (2007); Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao (2007); Grand Palais, Paris (2007); Louisiana
Museum of Modern Art, Denmark (2010); the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (2011); Tel Aviv Museum of
Art (2011); The Royal Academy of Arts, London (2014); the Centre Georges Pompidou and the
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris (2015). In 2007 Kiefer became the first artist to be
commissioned to install a permanent work at the Louvre, Paris since Georges Braque some 50
years earlier. In 2009 he created an opera, Am Anfang, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Opéra
National de Paris.