10 Things you should know about Anselm Kiefer

Artsper is your guide in discovering the work of the geniuses of contemporary art. This warm autumn will be the occasion to explore an ambiguous personality: the German artist Anselm Kiefer, who confronts History and makes it his material, revisiting “the spirit of the matter”. He is a genius who makes the memory of his contemporaries confront the painful and horrific past that they’d often rather forget.


Anselm Kiefer was born in Donaueschingen, in Germany, in March 1945. He lives and works in France. 

In 1969, he took pictures of himself doing the Nazi salute in France, in Switzerland and in Italy, as a protest against the silence about the issue during the years after the war.

He represented Germany at the Venice Biennale in 1980, with Georg Baselitz. His works are vibrant, his tones are muted, he uses various materials (straw, wood, plants…),  his shapes are disproportionate, forcing the viewer to enter completely the painting or the sculpture.

Joseph Beuys was his teacher between 1970 and 1972, at the University of Art in Dusseldorf, but in a rather informal matter.

In 1983, with the occasion of his show at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, he came to the press conference dressed in a German military uniform. 

This scandal didn’t do any good to his already stained reputation. All his life, the artist will cultivate this ambiguous relationship with Nazism. Historian Daniel Arasse sees his gestures as having an expiatory or cathartic value. He has many detractors though, who see him as a neo-Nazi character. 

Kiefer opened the Monumenta cycle at the Grand Palais, in 2007. He created a haunting village made of colossal sand towers, lead sheets, living plants (as a reaction to the surrounding chaos and human insanity), and broken glass. He evokes the horrors of the Holocaust, German myths, and his friend, Paul Celan, associated with the fern symbol – a synonym for invincibility in the Germanic mythology. This traumatizing hugeness of the show synthesizes in the Grand Palais all the artist’s obsessions.

There are three pieces of Anselm Kiefer at the Louvre! In 2007, the musem offered him the opportunity to create a few permanent works for its space. He chose to place his pieces, Athanor, an 11-meter high mural, and Danaé and Hortus Conclusus , two lead sculptures, at the crossing of the Greek, the Egyptian and the Oriental wings. Three works revolving around themes like resurrection and confinement. As always, the Anselm Kiefer’s imagery oscillates between the tragic and mythology. 

The artist works in the south of France, in his studio, La Ribaute. That is where he creates his monumental pieces.

Somme market information: Anselm Kiefer refuses to show his work in art fairs. He is represented in Paris by the internationally renowned galleries Yvon Lambert, Thaddaeus Ropac and Gagosian. In 2011, Christie’s sold his piece Au Peintre inconnu (To the Unknown Painter), (1983), for 3.6 million dollars, to a private American collector.


Détail, Symboles Héroïques, 1969


Arbre à palette, 1978


Au peintre inconnu, 1983


A l’Etre Supreme, 1983


Lilith, 1997

Athanor, 2007




Cain et Abel, 2006

Danaé, 2007


Détail, Monumenta, 2007


Mutterkorn, 2011