Reflecting on ARTIST ROOMS Anselm Kiefer
We are heading into the final weekend of our Anselm Kiefer exhibition, which has brought works one of the greatest European contemporary artist to Carlisle, thanks to the ARTIST ROOMS on tour programme, supported by The Artist Rooms Foundation, Tate and National Galleries Scotland. As we prepare for the end of our exhibition one of our Museum Assistants, Andy, has been reflecting on his experience welcoming visitors to the exhibition.
So it’s almost auf Wiedersehen Herr Kiefer; you’ve been a real experience.
This modern German art-monster has really got under people’s skin. Because of the initially black – literally and figuratively – nature of many of the works in the show it’s been interesting how so many visitors, completely unfamiliar with Anselm Kiefer, have felt the magic of the man.
They came in initially a bit bemused sometimes, wondering what they’d paid their £3 for – especially on first sight of the mighty Palette. But so many left, some after an hour or more on their feet walking from Norns to Hortus, from Oedipus to Aurora, from Untitled to Ohne Titel, with a quite obvious sense of enlightenment and even quiet excitement. Look at the visitors book: it’s busy, enthusiastic and very positive indeed. Oh, except for….
Yes, oh yes, some were puzzled, a few were just dismissive, a very tiny minority were filled with scorn. Notable among these one visitor who complained about Kiefer and all “the others” – Emin, Hirst and so on – being charlatans and cynical exploiters. But she really got her money’s-worth from the ensuing hot debate around the gallery about the nature of good art. There is of course no obligation to like an exhibition.
The BBC broadcast an “Imagine” film about Kiefer last year, and because of that many visitors have arrived clued up but at that point maybe not quite fans. Even if they hadn’t been fully prepared for exactly what they would be looking at and the amount of thinking Kiefer would be encouraging, they were at least steeled for something rather different and challenging. They’d done their homework and reaped the benefit.
And then there’s the Kiefer devotees, switched on and pre-tuned-in to the Fates in the starry heavens above broadcasting to their inner palettes: the ones who saw him at the Baltic five years ago; the ones who saw him at the Royal Academy last winter. The RA held a huge retrospective, but some of those who came to the Tullie’s Kiefer, have been adamant that our show was more of a revelation: two works finished for us, a good spread of his engrossing and disturbing manipulated photo collages, two characteristically huge canvasses and that strangely enchanting collection of golden human organs laid out on a so subtly-finished table cloth of lead.
That final work brought home to many that had it not been for the efforts of retired art dealer and collector Anthony d’Offay in whose home it was once displayed, The Artist Rooms Foundation, might not exist. Because of ARTIST ROOMS Kiefer came to Carlisle, McCullin went to Shetland, Warhol to Peterborough and Koons to Norwich. And it’s continuing: check out the busy calendar at https://www.nationalgalleries.org/collection/on-now-coming-soon-23445/ . But at the moment the Tullie exhibition looks like your last chance to see Kiefer in the UK this year…so it’s Tullie before Monday or Paris in December.
Thank you to Andy for his reflections on the exhibition, to make your own mind up about Anselm Kiefer you’ll have to be quick. The exhibition closes on Sunday 7 June at 5pm.