The Colossal Art of Kiefer At Royal Academy

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 41 months ago
The Colossal Art of Kiefer At Royal Academy ★★★★★ 5
Anselm Kiefer 
Interior (Innenraum), 1981 
Photo Collection Stedelijk Museum / copyright Anselm Kiefer
Anselm Kiefer Interior (Innenraum), 1981 Photo Collection Stedelijk Museum / copyright Anselm Kiefer
Key. 11   /  Cat. 
 
 
 Anselm Kiefer
 Winter Landscape (Winterlandschaft), 1970
 Watercolour, gouache, and graphite pencil on paper, 42.9 x 35.6 cm
 Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, 1995 (1995.14.5)
 Photo copyright 2014. Image copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence / copyright Anselm Kiefer
Anselm Kiefer Winter Landscape (Winterlandschaft), 1970 Photo copyright 2014. Image copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence / copyright Anselm Kiefer
Key. 59  /  Cat. 0
 
 Anselm Kiefer
 The Orders of the Night (Die Orden der Nacht), 1996
 Emulsion, acrylic and shellac on canvas, 356 x 463 cm
 Seattle Art Museum. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard C. Hedreen
 Photo copyright Seattle Art Museum / copyright Anselm Kiefer
Anselm Kiefer The Orders of the Night (Die Orden der Nacht), 1996 Photo copyright Seattle Art Museum / copyright Anselm Kiefer
Key. 28  /  Cat. 0
 
 Anselm Kiefer
 Heroic Symbol V (Heroisches Sinnbild V), 1970
 Oil on canvas, 150 x 260.5 cm
 Collection Wuerth
 Photo Collection Wuerth / copyright Anselm Kiefer
Anselm Kiefer Heroic Symbol V (Heroisches Sinnbild V), 1970 Photo Collection Wuerth / copyright Anselm Kiefer
Key. 76  /  Cat. 0
 
 Anselm Kiefer
 Black Flakes (Schwarze Flocken), 2006
 Oil, emulsion, acrylic, charcoal, lead books, branches and plaster on canvas, 
 330 x 570 cm
 Private collection, c/o Museum Kueppersmuehle fuer Moderne Kunst
 Photo Privatbesitz Famille Grothe / copyright Anselm Kiefer
Anselm Kiefer Black Flakes (Schwarze Flocken), 2006 Photo Privatbesitz Famille Grothe / copyright Anselm Kiefer

Londonist Rating: ★★★★★

Anselm Kiefer is known for creating momentous works of art on a grand scale, and to ensure visitors know what to expect they will be greeted by giant vitrines in the Royal Academy's courtyard. Rusted submarines hang suspended as if submerged underwater, while in the second vitrine they appear as sunken shells on the 'ocean floor'.

Inside, the exhibition starts with a young Kiefer creating controversial paintings featuring the German artist posing with a Nazi salute. This highlights how he grew up in the aftermath of the second world war, yet schools often chose to skirt over this period in German history.

Historic references are combined with monumental scale in his depictions of buildings constructed during the Third Reich, which loom ominously over visitors. Similarly, this sense of scale is evoked by giant black sunflowers appearing to look down upon a corpse.

Kiefer is renowned for his use of materials incorporated into paintings including straw, copper wire and clay, giving his works a texture and life beyond standard paintings. In other works, a pair of trainers hangs off a forest scene and elsewhere burnt books extend outwards resembling shelves.

A totemic sculpture is made up of blank canvases surrounded by leaf litter and sprouting giant funghi, and is a testament to both Kiefer's perfectionism and the weight of history that can be found in his art.

There is a wonderful duality to Kiefer; his works can be appreciated on a purely aesthetic level for innovative use of materials and their texture, but there is also a deeper level of historic gravitas to his art. Both of these combined with the colossal scale of his work, which images cannot do justice, make for an overwhelmingly powerful retrospective and one of the exhibitions of the year.

Anselm Kiefer is on at Royal Academy of Arts until 14 December. Tickets are £14 for adults, concessions available. Also still on at Royal Academy are the photographs of Dennis Hopper.

For more great art to see in London, visit our September listings.

Last Updated 27 September 2014