Anselm Kiefer: Hortus Philosophorum at the Gagosian Gallery

I don't usually focus on private art galleries here but there's a small yet exquisite Anselm Kiefer exhibition running right now at the Gagosian Gallery on Via Francesco Crispi which is well worth going out of your way to visit. Whilst the Gagosian may present a challenge to some artists given that its principal exhibition space is an oval room, Hortus Philosophorum (a title charcoaled directly on the wall by the artist) consists of a group of eight sculptures which work perfectly in the main gallery.

Each sculpture in the series is a variation on the core form of a massive, irregular stack of books made from lead and the visitor is allowed to circle around them exploring the unique attributes of the individual works which reference poetry, mythology, and diverse strands of cultural history. I particularly liked Sternenfall (Falling Stars) in which the stack of books is surrounded by glass shards inscribed with numbers; although it isn't immediately obvious what these numbers mean – they could even be phone numbers – they actually correspond to stars in the charted galaxy. Verungl├╝ckte Hoffnung (The Wreck of the Hope) inspired by Caspar David Friedrich's arctic landscape is also very beautiful with a shattered terracotta urn and a rusted “boat” reminiscent of the grounded Hope being the evocative additions to the lead tomes.

The show is completed by a smaller room featuring large vertical collages based on photographs of Kiefer's 2005 work The Seven Heavenly Palaces, a series of monumental towers cast from concrete and lead which explored the seven stages of spirituality. The collages, instead, explore the theme of Ararat, the mountain on which Noah's Ark came to rest after the flood.

Highly recommended!

Anselm Kiefer: Hortus Philosophorum continues at the Gagosian Gallery at Via Francesco Crispi, 16 until 23 May, 2009

Photo © Gagosian Gallery