Hobson’s Choice: Anselm Kiefer at White Cube, Bermondsey

20 December 2011 By
Director's Choice: Anselm Kiefer at White Cube, Bermondsey

Paul Hobson, Director of the Contemporary Art Society, recommends his favourite exhibition of the week.

Anselm Kiefer: Il Mistero delle Cattedrali

9 December 2011 – 26 February 2012

White Cube, 144-152 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TQ

Tuesday – Saturday 10 – 6pm, Sunday 12-6pm


The sheer scale of the new Anselm Kiefer exhibition, ‘Il Mistero delle Cattedrali’, – theatrically staged across the hospital-like, vast and sanitary spaces of the new White Cube in Bermondsey – will knock you sideways. This is the biggest presentation of Kiefer to take place in London, including works that range back from the late 1980’s to gargantuan current work. The exhibition reflects Kiefer’s preoccupation with alchemy; in particular, alchemical processes being bound up with a ‘hastening of time’ and the idea of accelerated transformation as a form of magic. As well as this over-arching theme Kiefer contends with twentieth century German histories. Nothing can prepare you for the two rooms which take the now defunct Tempelhof Airport in Berlin as their inspiration. Built in 1927, the Nazis intended the enormous structure to be their gateway to Europe in Albert Speer’s redesigned Berlin. The first of the two rooms functions as an anti-chamber to the second, which is sheer scale. Giant landscape paintings of the airport’s interior and looming corridors face each other across the expanse of polished concrete floor. Executed with enormous physicality, a jam and crust of salt, oxidised lead, scrapped and cracked and scored paint, resin and organic matter they both crush and impress the viewer. This is theatre, a giant and powerful body of work.

Image: © Anselm Kiefer, Il Mistero Delle Cattedrali, 2010-2011, oil, acrylic, terracotta, salt, lead and resin on canvas (330 x 1710 cm). Image courtesy White Cube

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