“Anselm Kiefer: Steigend, Steigend, Sinke Nieder [In Climbing, Climbing Towards the Heights, Fall into the Abyss],” currently on view at the Pompidou Museum in Paris until April 2016

“Redemption means discovery. I discover something, I discover something else, I put them together and sometimes it’s successful because it works.”

—Anselm Kiefer

The Centre Pompidou Forum presents a monumental work by Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945, Germany). The title of the work, “In Climbing, Climbing Towards the Heights, Fall into the Abyss,” suggests a dual motion of ascent and descent.

Six shipping containers piled on three levels (7.8 x 15.6 x 4.9 m) have been hollowed out in the center to form an enclosure. Strips of lead fall straight down, or in spirals, from the top towards a large pool of murky water at the bottom. Prints of photographs culled from the artist’s archive of over 10,000 images have been applied onto the lead bands. Since the lead blocks out light completely, these perfectly opaque strips are the opposite of celluloid film, responding to a script which narrate the story of this artist’s career.

The installation, part of the artist’s retrospective exhibition, will remain on view until April 2016, and is curated by Jean-Michel Bouhours.


Anselm KieferBorn in March 1945 at Donaueschingen, Anselm Kiefer, alongside Georg Baselitz, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Jörg Immendorff, took part in the 1970’s revival of German painting that took place in an international context marked by Neo-Expressionism. Anselm Kiefer’s work was immediately perceived as singular, through its obsessive treatment of History and the myths intrinsic to Germanic culture. Representing Germany at the 1980 Venice Biennial with Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer was accused of awakening the demons of a grievous past and even suspected of nationalistic deviations. Today’s derelict urban landscapes – where blocks of concrete are intermingled with twisted metal – performed the catharsis of an original trauma connected with his birth in 1945, spawning an aesthetics of ruins. Since the Renaissance, with Joachim du Bellay and then Hubert Robert, Diderot and the Romantics, there has been a tradition of an art of ruins, with Anselm Kiefer however it is enacted, it is the present. For the artist, matter contains its own spirit and its memory. To the usual materials of painting he adds clay, plaster, plants (straws, sunflowers, poppies and ferns), ashes, metals like iron, and especially lead that he has been using since the 1970s. For the artist this metal is endowed with elective virtues: physical qualities of pliability, extreme density, impermeability to electromagnetic rays. For Anselm Kiefer this material, essential for alchemists in their process of transmutation, is capable of producing a spark of light, “a spark that seems to belong to another world, a world inaccessible to us.” Via Centre Pompidou.

All installation photos by Cranium Corporation, 2015

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