Anselm Kiefer has produced a diverse body of work comprising painting, sculpture and installation that has made him one of the most important European artists of the past four decades.
After studying law, and Romance languages and literature, Kiefer devoted himself entirely to painting. He attended the School of Fine Arts at Fribourg-in-Brisgau, then the Art Academy in Karlsruhe, while maintaining contact with Joseph Beuys, but soon began to develop his own deliberately indigenous set of subjects and symbols that he used to explore the fraught territory of German history and identity. In his artistic language, physical materiality and visual complexity enliven his themes and content with a rich, vibrant tactility. His subject-matter ranges from sources as diverse as Teutonic Mythology and history, alchemy and the nature of belief, all depicted in a bewildering variety of materials, including oil paint, dirt, lead, photography, woodcuts, sand, straw and all manner of organic material. By adding found materials to the painted surface of his immense tableaux, he invents a compelling third space between painting and sculpture. Recent work has broadened his range yet further, and in 2005 he showed a series of paintings based around the little-known work of the modernist poet Velimir Chlebnikov (1885-1922). Few contemporary artists match Kiefer's epic reach, and his work consistently balances powerful imagery with acute critical analysis.
Anselm Kiefer was born in Donaueschingen, Germany in 1945 and has lived and worked in France since 1993. He has exhibited widely, including solo shows at MoMA, New York (1987); Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1991); The Metropolitan Museum, New York (1998); Fort Worth Museum of Art (2005); the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006); Mass MoCA, Massachusetts; Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao; the Grand Palais, Paris; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark (2010); the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (2011), Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2011), the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2014) and the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris (2015). In 2007 Kiefer became the first artist to be commissioned to install a permanent work at the Louvre, Paris since Georges Braque some 50 years earlier. In 2009 he created an opera, Am Anfang, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Opéra National de Paris.