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Anselm Kiefer
Gagosian - Le Bourget
26 Avenue de l'Europe, 93350 Le Bourget , Paris, France
October 19, 2012 - January 26, 2013

Big Galleries [Part Two]
by James Loks

The journey to Gagosian's new Le Bourget gallery made last week’s trip to the suburbs look like child's play. While the Pantin space of Thaddeaus Ropac is conveniently situated a short walk from the metro, this involved travelling to the end of the metro line and then taking a bus for twenty-five minutes to reach the outskirts of the airfield on which it is situated.[1] Not for the first time I rued the absence of a private jet in my life, or a car for that matter. By the time I arrived I was questioning both the wisdom of my visit and the gallery's new location.

However, after walking for a further ten minutes and eventually finding the gallery tucked among the hangars, my doubts were dispelled. The space is breathtaking. It's different from Ropac -- bigger, with a single main space some fifteen meters high with skylights above and a walkway around it. It feels more industrial, straighter, more of a White Cube, and a pretty amazing one at that. There is also a reading area alongside two smaller rooms, which feels right; as you have travelled to be here, you may as well stay a while.

ANSELM KIEFER, Paul Celan: wir schöpften die Finsternis leer, wir fanden das wort, das den Sommer heraufkam: Blume; (We scooped the darkness empty, we found the word that ascended summer: flower), 2012, Oil, emulsion, acrylic, on photograph on canvas, 110 1/4 x 149 5/8 inches; Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian.

And there of course, like at Ropac’s new gallery, is Anselm Kiefer; although this has a notably different feel. While the Ropac exhibition is overtly darker and perhaps more melancholic, in this show it is more the sense of nostalgia that comes to the fore. The five canvases on display are more colourful -- flowers dot the ever-present swaying cornfields under blue skies -- and are less apocalyptic and more bucolic, though given an edge by the unifying theme of the Morgenthau plan, a proposition put forward by the US state department during World War Two to dismantle Germany's industrial capability and return it to a purely agricultural society, and thereby removing their capacity to wage war. The paradoxical feel of the work is mirrored in the outcome of the plan, in that Goebbels latched upon this idea for propaganda purposes and ultimately used it to extend the conflict. The central space of the gallery is filled with a square of corn, dried and dying but gilded at the top, caged inside a grill of rusted iron, a lead book buried in its midst. As with all Kiefer's work it operates powerfully on both a visual and conceptual level and is once again a fitting debut for this space.

Ultimately, I have to say that it is worth the visit, although not without reservation. One of the differences between the two shows is that at Ropac you are presented with several different series of painting and sculptures, thus you get a broader picture of the artist; whereas here you see only one facet, and it's kind of ironic that the larger space is filled with less work. However much I enjoyed the pleasure of being the only person in the gallery and having the opportunity to get close enough to the canvas to smell the paint (I visited on a Tuesday) there was a lot of white wall. I was left with the impression that no matter how incredible I find Kiefer's work there just wasn't enough of it, and it pains me slightly to say this but perhaps it didn't fully do justice to the potential of this gallery. Although it's entirely possible that I'd feel differently if it hadn't taken me over an hour to get there.

ANSELM KIEFER, Installation view; Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian.

In conclusion, and despite my niggles about travel, I would say that both visits should be included on the itinerary of anyone living in or planning to visit the city (especially if you're flying in a private jet). It's also going to be exciting to see the contribution they make to the Paris art scene in the future. For now, it's also amazing to be able to view such a selection of Kiefer's work.

James Thompson

[1] For visitor information it is worth noting that the address supplied by Gagosian for the gallery (800 Avenue de l'Europe, Le Bourget) doesn't show up on Google maps since it is on the grounds of the airfield. You can use the map on the Gagosian website, or simply search for the airport or 'Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace', which is just down the road, and then work it out from there.

(Image on top: ANSELM KIEFER, Morgenthau Plan, 2012, Steel, sand, cotton, plaster, fabric, clay, acrylic, shellac, gold leaf, terracotta, stone, lead, 188 x 637 3/4 x 566 15/16 inches; Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian.)

Posted by James Loks on 11/12/12 | tags: installation mixed-media

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072_over_above_mnt__jeru_e_copy Kiefer at the air port
A journey to the end of the line, to the wide open spaces - of the air port, seems very much like the spaces in the so many of the paintings. This sounds quite poetic, surely, - was it only located there for jet access?

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