|Birth Day:||March 8, 1945|
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He studied during the 1970s with renowned artist Joseph Beuys. Prior to that he had been mentored by realist and figurative painter Peter Dreher.
The son of a German art teacher, Kiefer was born in Donaueschingen two months before the end of World War II. His city having been heavily bombed, Kiefer grew up surrounded by the devastation of the war. In 1951, his family moved to Ottersdorf, and he attended public school in Rastatt, graduating high school in 1965. He studied at the University of Freiburg, studying pre-law and Romance languages. However, after 3 semesters he switched to art, studying at art academies in Freiburg and Karlsruhe. In Karlsruhe, he studied under Peter Dreher, a realist and figurative painter. He received an art degree in 1969.
Kiefer began his career creating performances and documenting them in photographs titled Occupations and Heroische Sinnbilder (Heroic Symbols). Dressed in his father's Wehrmacht uniform, Kiefer mimicked the Nazi salute in various locations in France, Switzerland and Italy. He asked Germans to remember and to acknowledge the loss to their culture through the mad xenophobia of the Third Reich. In 1969, at Galerie am Kaiserplatz, Karlsruhe, he presented his first single exhibition "Besetzungen (Occupations)" with a series of photographs of controversial political actions.
In 1969 Kiefer began to design books. Early examples are typically worked-over photographs; his more recent books consist of sheets of lead layered with paint, minerals, or dried plant matter. For example, he assembled numerous lead books on steel shelves in libraries, as symbols of the stored, discarded knowledge of history. The book Rhine (1981) comprises a sequence of 25 woodcuts that suggest a journey along the Rhine River; the river is central to Germany's geographical and historical development, acquiring an almost mythic significance in works such as Wagner's Ring of the Nibelungs. Scenes of the unspoiled river are interrupted by dark, swirling pages that represent the sinking of the battleship Bismarck in 1941, during an Atlantic sortie codenamed Rhine Exercise.
In 1969, Kiefer had his first solo exhibition, at Galerie am Kaiserplatz in Karlsruhe. Along with Georg Baselitz, he represented Germany at the Venice Biennale in 1980. He was also featured in the 1997 Venice Biennale with a one-man show held at the Museo Correr, concentrating on paintings and books.
By 1970, while studying informally under Joseph Beuys at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, his stylistic leanings resembled Georg Baselitz's approach. He worked with glass, straw, wood and plant parts. The use of these materials meant that his art works became temporary and fragile, as Kiefer himself was well aware; he also wanted to showcase the materials in such a way that they were not disguised and could be represented in their natural form. The fragility of his work contrasts with the stark subject matter in his paintings. This use of familiar materials to express ideas was influenced by Beuys, who used fat and carpet felt in his works. It is also typical of the Neo-Expressionist style.
In 1971 Kiefer moved to Hornbach (Walldürn) and established a studio. He remained in the Neckar-Odenwald-Kreis until 1992; his output during this first creative time is known as The German Years. In 1992 he relocated to France.
Kiefer returned to the area of his birthplace in 1971. In the years that followed, he incorporated German mythology in particular in his work, and in the next decade he studied the Kabbalah, as well as Qabalists like Robert Fludd. He went on extended journeys throughout Europe, the US and the Middle East; the latter two journeys further influenced his work. Besides paintings, Kiefer created sculptures, watercolors, photographs, and woodcuts, using woodcuts in particular to create a repertoire of figures he could reuse repeatedly in all media over the next decades, lending his work its knotty thematic coherence.
Kiefer's first large studio was in the attic of his home, a former schoolhouse in Hornbach. Years later he installed his studio in a factory building in Buchen, near Hornbach. In 1988, Kiefer transformed a former brick factory in Höpfingen (also near Buchen) into an extensive artwork including numerous installations and sculptures. In 1991, after twenty years of working in the Odenwald, the artist left Germany to travel around the world—to India, Mexico, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, and the United States. In 1992 he established himself in Barjac, France, where he transformed his 35-hectare studio compound La Ribaute into a Gesamtkunstwerk. A derelict silk factory, his studio is enormous and in many ways is a comment on industrialization. He created an extensive system of glass buildings, archives, installations, storerooms for materials and paintings, subterranean chambers and corridors.
In 1990, Kiefer was awarded the Wolf Prize. In 1999 the Japan Art Association awarded him the Praemium Imperiale for his lifetime achievements. In the explanatory statement it reads:
Kiefer left his first wife and children in Germany on his move to Barjac in 1992. From 2008 he lived in Paris, in a large house in the Marais district, with his second wife, the Austrian photographer Renate Graf, and their two children. Kiefer and Graf divorced in 2014.
He would shock the art world yet again at a dinner party in May 1993. Kiefer and his second wife, Renate Graf, decorated a candlelit commercial loft in New York with white muslin, carpeted the floor with white sand, and staffed it with waiters dressed as mimes with white-face. A handful of art world elite, such as the likes of Sherrie Levine, were served several courses of arcane organ meats, such as pancreas, that were mostly white in color. Not surprisingly, the guests did not find the meal to be particularly appetizing.
Since 2002, Kiefer has worked with concrete, creating the towers destined for the Pirelli warehouses in Milan, the series of tributes to Velimir Khlebnikov (paintings of the sea, with boats and an array of leaden objects, 2004-5), a return to the work of Paul Celan with a series of paintings featuring rune motifs (2004–06), and other sculptures. In 2003, he held his first solo show at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg Villa Katz, Anselm Kiefer: Am Anfang, dedicated to a series of new works, centered on the recurring themes of history and myths. In 2005, he held his second exhibition in Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac's Salzburg location, Für Paul Celan, which focused on Kiefer's preoccupation with the book, linking references to Germanic mythology with the poetry of Paul Celan, a German-speaking Jew from Czernowitz. The exhibition featured eleven works on canvas, a series of bound books shown in display cases, and five sculptures, including one powerful, monumental outdoor sculpture of reinforced concrete and lead elements, two leaden piles of books combined with bronze sunflowers, lead ships and wedges, and two monumental leaden books from the series The Secret Life of Plants. The exhibition toured to Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris and Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris, the following year.
In 2006, Kiefer's exhibition, Velimir Chlebnikov, was first shown in a small studio near Barjac, then moved to White Cube in London, then finishing in the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Connecticut. The work consists of 30 large (2 x 3 meters) paintings, hanging in two banks of 15 on facing walls of an expressly constructed corrugated steel building that mimics the studio in which they were created. The work refers to the eccentric theories of the Russian futurist philosopher/poet Velimir Chlebnikov, who invented a "language of the future" called "Zaum", and who postulated that cataclysmic sea battles shift the course of history once every 317 years. In his paintings, Kiefer's toy-like battleships—misshapen, battered, rusted and hanging by twisted wires—are cast about by paint and plaster waves. The work's recurrent color notes are black, white, gray, and rust; and their surfaces are rough and slathered with paint, plaster, mud and clay.
In 2007, he became the first artist to be commissioned to install a permanent work at the Louvre, Paris, since Georges Braque some 50 years earlier. The same year, he inaugurated the Monumenta exhibitions series at the Grand Palais in Paris, with works paying special tribute to the poets Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann.
Comprehensive solo exhibitions of Kiefer's work have been organized by the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (1984); Art Institute of Chicago (1987); Sezon Museum of Art in Tokyo (1993); Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin (1991); Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (1998); Fondation Beyeler in Basel (2001); the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2005); the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C. (2006); the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2007). In 2007, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao presented an extensive survey of recent work. Several of his works were exhibited in 2009 for the first time in the Balearic Islands, in the museum Es Baluard in Palma de Mallorca. In 2012, the Art Gallery of Hamilton presented some of his paintings. London's Royal Academy of Arts mounted the first British retrospective of the artist's work in September 2014.
In 2007 Kiefer was commissioned to create a huge site-specific installation of sculptures and paintings for the inaugural "Monumenta" at the Grand Palais, Paris. With the unveiling of a triptych – the mural Athanor and the two sculptures Danae and Hortus Conclusus – at the Louvre in 2007, Kiefer became the first living artist to create a permanent site-specific installation in the museum since Georges Braque in 1953.
During 2008, Kiefer left his studio complex at Barjac and moved to Paris. A fleet of 110 lorries transported his work to a 35,000 sq ft (3,300 m) warehouse in Croissy-Beaubourg, outside of Paris, that had once been the depository for the La Samaritaine department store. A journalist wrote of Kiefer's abandoned studio complex: "He left behind the great work of Barjac – the art and buildings. A caretaker looks after it. Uninhabited, it quietly waits for nature to take over, because, as we know, over our cities grass will grow. Kiefer spent the summer of 2019 living and working at Barjac."
In 2008, Kiefer installed Palmsonntag (Palm Sunday) (2006), a monumental palm tree and 36 steel-and-glass reliquary tablets in the auditorium-gym of the First Baptist Church of Los Angeles, an enormous Spanish Gothic edifice built in 1927. The room was reconfigured to accommodate the work. Floors were sanded to remove the basketball court's markings, and the wall for the reliquary paintings was constructed inside the space. In 2010 the piece was installed at the Art Gallery of Ontario museum in Toronto, where Kiefer created eight new panels specifically for the AGO's exhibition of this work.
In 2008, Kiefer was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, given for the first time to a visual artist. Art historian Werner Spies said in his speech that Kiefer is a passionate reader who takes impulses from literature for his work. In 2011 Kiefer was appointed to the chair of creativity in art at the Collège de France.
In 2009 Kiefer mounted two exhibitions at the White Cube gallery in London. A series of forest diptychs and triptychs enclosed in glass vitrines, many filled with dense Moroccan thorns, was titled Karfunkelfee, a term from German Romanticism stemming from a poem by the post-war Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann. In The Fertile Crescent, Kiefer presented a group of epic paintings inspired by a trip to India fifteen years earlier where he first encountered rural brick factories. Over the past decade, the photographs that Kiefer took in India "reverberated" in his mind to suggest a vast array of cultural and historical references, reaching from the first human civilization of Mesopotamia to the ruins of Germany in the aftermath of the Second World War, where he played as a boy. "Anyone in search of a resonant meditation on the instability of built grandeur", wrote the historian Simon Schama in his catalogue essay, "would do well to look hard at Kiefer's The Fertile Crescent".
The use of straw in his work is also in part the result of this common theme of energy. Straw again features the color gold and gives off energy, heat, and warmth when burned. This would make way for new creation thus continuing the cycle of life through the transformation process. In 2011, Christie's set a new worldwide record of $3.6 million for the artist, when it sold To the Unknown Painter (1983) to an American private collector.
In September 2013, The Hall Art Foundation, in partnership with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, opened a long-term installation of sculpture and paintings in a specifically repurposed, 10,000 square-foot building on the MASS MoCA campus. In 2014, the Foundation landscaped the area surrounding this building in order to present long-term installations of outdoor sculpture.
In 2015, the Centre Pompidou, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and the Museum der bildenden Künste in Lepizig hosted a retrospective exhibition in honor of Kiefer's 70th birthday.
In 2016 the Albertina in Vienna dedicated an exhibition to his woodcuts, showing 35 made between 1977 and 2015, with an accompanying catalogue.
In 2017, Kiefer was ranked one of the richest 1,001 individuals and families in Germany by the monthly business publication Manager Magazin.
He unveiled his first public art commission in the United States in May 2018, at Rockefeller Center. The Uraeus sculpture was inspired in part by the religious symbols of Egypt and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It was put on view until 22 July.
Currently, Anselm Kiefer is 76 years, 7 months and 15 days old. Anselm Kiefer will celebrate 77th birthday on a Tuesday 8th of March 2022.
Find out about Anselm Kiefer birthday activities in timeline view here.