Tim Marlow, Director of Artistic Programming at the Royal Academy of Arts introduces this extraordinary artist and exhibition: Anselm Kiefer is a force of nature. This has become apparent to me over the last two decades as I’ve come to know the German-born, Honorary Academician based in France. He has created a studio complex-cum-gesamtkunstwerk in southern France comprising more than forty pavilions, a labyrinth of tunnels, a five story amphitheatre made from concrete casts of shipping containers and at least twenty towers not dissimilar to the two he assembled in the RA courtyard in 2007. This level of ambition is reflected in almost everything he does, whatever the scale.
His work ranges across books and drawings, paintings and sculpture right up to monumental installations. His cultural references are vast and sometimes daunting but his central subject is human history and his work is fundamentally physical, its impact visceral as well as emotional and intellectual. He is one of the great materialists, an artist who relishes the stuff of paint but who also includes lead, ash, mud, clay, straw, flowers, and seeds in his epic canvases as if perhaps to emphasise the weight as well as the transience of history. He describes himself – with a twinkle in his eye – as "an old-fashioned painter – I do all my own work".
Kiefer’s reputation is global and his place in art history assured but he has never had a major institutional exhibition in this country. Thankfully that’s about to change. Brace yourselves for an elemental and awe-inspiring experience across the Academy.
Hear from Anselm Kiefer, Tim Marlow and curator Kathleen Soriano in an exclusive video interview.