Fifteen years after inaugurating the Monumenta series at the Grand Palais in 2007, Anselm Kiefer is the first artist to realize a new project that engages with the entire space of the Grand Palais Éphémère, at the invitation of the Rmn – Grand Palais.
In Pour Paul Celan, sculptures, installations and 19 large-scale canvases interact with the elusive poetry of the great German-language poet Paul Celan.
Paul Celan’s work has been a constant presence in Anselm Kiefer’s paintings since his adolescence, when he discovered the poem ‘‘Todesfuge’’ (‘‘Death Fugue’’). It continues to still be so with this group of recent paintings. This dialogue has intensified in recent years, and particularly in 2020 during the time of lockdown.
In excerpts from his journal written while preparing for the exhibition at the Grand Palais Éphémère, Anselm Kiefer writes:
Celan does not merely contemplate nothingness, he has experienced it, lived through it.
paul celan’s language comes from so far away, from another world with which we have not yet been confronted, it comes to us like that of an alien. we find it hard to understand. we grasp a fragment here and there. we cling to it without ever being able to capture the whole of it. i have humbly tried, for sixty years. from now on, i will write this language down on canvas, an undertaking that is like a rite.
the exhibition at the grand palais: how can you put celan in a room built for the olympics? isn’t that an impossible, blasphemous undertaking? your large paintings in which you quote celan: isn’t that like putting celan on morris columns? shouldn’t you set fire to the paintings, burn them in public?
According to the filmmaker Alexander Kluge, Anselm Kiefer’s paintings breathe life into Celan’s verses, and in turn, the poet’s words enliven the paintings. The artistic disciplines have taken up the conflicts of history, even though, according to Kluge, a ‘‘Bauhaus to avoid war’’ does not exist.
This exhibition is organized by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais in partnership with the Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery, in association with the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2022.