Anselm Kiefer is the unsinkable dreadnought of contemporary German art. Heavy and metallic, inescapably big, looming with history.
Since the 1970s, he has commanded the cultural bridge between Joseph Beuys and the fall of the Berlin Wall. He works on such a scale that his White Cube show this summer comes in two parts. The first involved 30 paintings of war-weary submarines – the vessels actually cast in lead – displayed in a purpose-built corrugated iron shed on London’s Hoxton Square. Reputedly, an American collector salvaged the lot for $5m (£2.8m).
The second, opening this week, brings the ‘outside’ inside and into the frame. The main exhibit is a derelict concrete staircase pinned to a huge canvas of grimy acrylic and sand.
It looks as though Rachel Whiteread has made a memento mori of Albert Speer’s shell-shocked Reich. With the fleet of pictorial U-boats, you felt securely anchored. It was Kiefer’s naval graveyard. Now, you’re more adrift. The title doesn’t help much – Von den verlorenen gerÃ¼hrt, die der Glaube nicht trug, erwachen die Trommeln im Fluss (Touched by the lost souls who were not guided by their faith, the drums in the river awaken) – and perhaps you’re wondering how it’s fixed in place.
Moody, troubling, portentous as hell – that’s Kiefer.
Anselm Kiefer Part II is at White Cube, 48 Hoxton Square, London, N1 until 27 August. For more information see www.whitecube.com or call 020 7930 5373