I n Milan's former
industrial quarter, the German artist Anselm Kiefer has created seven tall
towers from cement slabs and lead elements that combine the Jewish
tradition of the cabala with contemporary forms.
Over the past
several years, the Bicocca district in Milan has undergone an amazing
transformation that will soon be nearing its end: the abandoned factories
of the former industrial quarter, for the most part in the old Pirelli
area, have been renovated into an exclusive business area that now houses
not only the new headquarters of
Deutsche Bank, the largest foreign bank in the country with a total of
5,500 staff members across Italy, but also an exhibition hall for
contemporary art: the Bicocca Hangar.
Zwei der sieben Türme im Probeaufbau vor
Anselm Kiefers Atelier im französischen Barjac, 2004
The opening exhibition in this huge hall, which measures 60 meters wide, 180
meters long, and 30 meters high, is a highly ambitious project organized
by the Italian curator
Lia Rumma and supported by Deutsche Bank. The large-scale installation
"The Seven Heavenly Palaces" by the German artist
Anselm Kiefer consists of seven tall towers of cement slabs and lead
elements ranging from 13 to 16 meters high. In this work, Kiefer has
picked up on one of the leitmotifs of his more than thirty-year artistic
career: an investigation into the relationships between mythology,
astrology, and the discoveries of modern science.
Aufbau eines Turmes im Hangar Bicocca
Installationsansicht der sieben Türme im
Kiefer, born 1945 in
Donaueschingen and long considered to be one of the most important German
artists alive, gave each of the towers its own name: "Falling Stars,"
"Sternenlager," "Die Sefiroth," "Tzim-Tzum," "Shevirat Ha-Kelim,"
"Tiqqun," and "The Seven Heavenly Palaces." For Kiefer, an important point
of reference was the myth of creation in ancient Jewish mystical
literature describing man's part in God's word. Yet the artist has taken
other points of reference into consideration in his work, as well, some of
which are decidedly contemporary by comparison: in his usage of the
material cement and his orientation along the customary dimensions of a
shipping container, Kiefer establishes connections to present life marked
more than ever before by globalization and possibility.
has been living and working in Barjac, France since 1993, understands the
universalism expressed in these works as an apt image of our time at the
beginning of the 21st century. The cross-references and symbolism in "The
Seven Heavenly Palaces," which operates on several levels simultaneously,
are numerous. With the "
Sefiroth" tower, for instance, the painter, sculptor, and installation
artist takes recourse to the three mythological paths open to mankind for
lending life order and meaning, according to ancient Jewish tradition:
love, sympathy, and strength.
Further associations arise through
the various tower components; in addition to the cement slabs, more than
one hundred leaden book sculptures as well as seven thousand "falling
stars" of glass were produced by art students at the
Accademia di Brera according to Kiefer's instructions. The artist left
round openings in the cement slabs to let the light shine through - in
reference to the famous passage of
the book Zohar, one of the fundamental writings of the
cabala quoted by
Elohim that describes the origin of the world thus: "Let there be
light" (Berechit 1:3). The divine light Kiefer refers to also created
Adam Kadmon, the mythical first human being on Earth.
As far back
into the past as the reminiscences in Kiefer's work extend, it also
contains concrete, site-specific analogies to the city of Milan. The fact
that the artist gave the elements in his installation a tower form also
establishes a reference both to historic Milan - with its profane and
religious tower architecture from the
Renaissance eras - and the modern skyscrapers in Milan's center, such
as the newly renovated
Pirelli Tower. In this web of conceptual and material references, Bicocca
as a whole also shines with a new brilliance - as a reconquered urban
area, and as a city within a city that is both new and old.
The exhibition at the Hangar Bicocca, Viale Sarca 336,
can be seen through December 7. Open daily from 12 P.M. to 7 P.M.
Catalogue published by Édition du Regard, Paris.