Big, bigger, biggest: Anselm Kiefer in Antwerp

‘Beauty is a puppet that is carried in front of me. That’s the reason why I keep on walking.’ One of the few sentences uttered in a magnificent documentary about Anselm Kiefer I saw the other day on Dutch tv. It was a shortened version of Over your cities grass will grow by Sophie Fiennes, for which she spent quite some time at Kiefer’s atelier in Barjac, in the south of France. Recently, the German contemporary artist has moved shop to an even bigger atelier in the vicinity of Paris. He has donated the huge site specific work of art that his atelier in Barjac has become to the French government. All of this to tell you that I must confess that I was more impressed by what I saw during that new documentary than by the current Anselm Kiefer exhibition in Antwerp. For me somehow it doesn’t click, those monumental, sombre paintings hanging on those neat white walls of that old museum. The Kiefer collection of the German Grothe family is temporarily (until January 23; prolonged till March 27) filling some of the rooms of the Museum of Fine Arts before it will get a complete make-over. But don’t get me wrong, it is a treat, of course, to be able to gaze at that many paintings of one of Germany’s most lauded contemporary artists, and to spot the recurring themes and elements. You’ll even see one of Kiefer’s most recent paintings: Der fruchtbare Halbmond (2009).

(You can watch the short version of Sophie Fiennes’ documentary on the internet here; the long version will be shown on November 17 at Cinema Zuid (Antwerp); more info on that and the exhibition here. For those of you travelling to Denmark, there’s a much bigger Kiefer exhibition running at the Louisiana Museum Of Modern Art right now, info here.)

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