Anselm Kiefer at Palazzo Ducale, Venice
Updated: Nov 23
Go early, go alone. This could be my motto for many things, but it becomes particularly fitting when I'm on my arty trips. And, for the sake of transparency, full disclaimer required: I am a lifelong Anselm Kiefer adept and, as such, chances are I will struggle to write anything remotely insightful or objective.
In this case, going early meant that I could experience a good couple of minutes of blissful solitude in the Sala dello Scrutinio, a place of great symbolic importance for Venice as that is where the Doges were elected. In art experience time, and given how shamefully fast I tend to consume everything, that is a considerable length of time. I had seen photos of this installation, and I am no stranger to the magnificence of Palazzo Ducale, but my jaw did drop, and my soul was definitely stirred.
Apart from scale, the one thing that always gets me with Kiefer is his anxious and masterful use of texture, combined with the incorporation of materials like straw, metal wires, fabric and resin. Although I think these paintings were arranged to engage closely with the existing decorative scheme of the hall, to me this is a complete takeover, a full kieferification of the environment. What is shared and palpable is the reflection on universal themes and millennial myths, the idea of the cultural and human passage between East and West. But what ultimately really stayed with me is the representation of the darkness of our times.
In the words of the great Ben Street (you should read everything he writes, by the way), Kiefer's monumental work is hammy, there is no doubt about that. It is however also incredibly thoughtful and well-researched. Kiefer is someone who famously immerses himself in history and who moves respectfully, if forcefully, in the spaces he operates in.
So there, I did warn you nothing insightful was going to come out of this post. I'm just going to let the images do the talking. Go see this if you can, it's on until October 29th, and join me in the blind ecstasy that is being a fully paid-up member of the Kiefer cult.
Questi scritti, quando verranno bruciati, daranno finalmente un po’ di luce (These writings, when burned, will finally cast a little light, 2022)
Palazzo Ducale, Venezia
© Anselm Kiefer