Anselm Kiefer

Interview with Anselm Kiefer:

Anselm Kiefer was born on March 8, 1945, in Donaueschingen, Baden-Württemburg, Germany, and raised near the east bank of the Rhine in the region of the Black Forest. Kiefer was named after the 19th-century classical painter Anselm Feuerbach and planned from childhood to become an artist. After studies at the university in Freiburg and the academy in Karlsruhe, he studied informally in the early 1970s with the artist Joseph Beuys on occasional visits to Düsseldorf. Before moving to Barjac, in the Languedoc region in the south of France, in 1992, Kiefer made art at home in Hornbach and then in a large converted brick factory in Buchen. He recently moved from the south of France to Paris.

The great majority of Kiefer’s works since his emergence in the late 1960s through the 1990s refer to subjects drawn from Germany and its culture: German history, myth, literature, art history, music, philosophy, topography, architecture, and folk customs, even going so far as to exploit clichés or commonplace icons—for example, Wagner’s operatic Ring cycle, Goethe’s poetry, or the mythical mountain resting place of Emperor Frederick I. Either directly or by strong implication, many of these references to German culture and history also evoke the uses and misuses to which the visual and verbal propaganda of the Third Reich subjected them. As Kiefer has said in reference to this national legacy of World War II, “[A]fter the ‘misfortune,’ as we all name it so euphemistically now, people thought that in 1945 we were starting all over again. . . . . It’s nonsense. The past was put under taboo, and to dig it up again generates resistance and disgust.”

Cultural critic Andreas Huyssen, in a 1992 essay, commented on the reception of Kiefer’s works in the 1970s and 1980s, noting that the artist’s Germanness functioned very differently in... (
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