Anselm Kiefer, described as a “colossus of contemporary art”, is one of the rare artists who convey the notion of the sublime. A sense of pathos pervades his paintings and sculpture, addressing the collective trauma and journeys of various societies. Often working in an expressive impasto of earthy and cold hues, his monumental canvases confront the monstrosities of the second world war as well as post-war spiritual bankruptcy. His brushstrokes possess a compelling materiality, incorporating ash, straw, clay, lead and resin to the effect of healing and rebirth. Although devoid of people, the forsaken interiors and vast fields he depicts are pregnant with an implied carnage. Violently overgrown pastoral landscapes hint at the post-apocalyptic, as if humanity had bulldozed through the pictorial space, leaving in its wake the aftermath of destruction that is brimming with latent potential.
Born in 1945 in Donaueschingen, Germany, Kiefer studied under Joseph Beuys and Peter Dreher, and had his first solo exhibition in 1969. Kiefer has been dedicated major retrospectives at institutions such as the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Germany; Art Institute of Chicago, USA; Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Fondation Beyeler, Basel; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. His work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate Modern, London; the San Francisco Museum of Art; the Albertina, Vienna; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
Kiefer most famously represented Germany at the Venice Biennale (1980, 1997) and was recently the subject of a critically-acclaimed, monumental solo exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. He holds some of the highest honours in art and culture, such as the Merit Cross 1st Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, International Prize by the Jury of the 47th Venice Biennale, the 1990 Wolf Prize for Art, the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art, Praemium Imperiale by the Japan Art Association, and the Leo-Baeck Medal by the Leo-Baeck Institute, New York. The artist lives and works in Paris and Alcácer do Sal, Portugal.