One of the most influential living artists, Anselm Kiefer, has brought his profound and layered exploration of memory, myth, history, literature and philosophy to the Renaissance splendor of Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Known worldwide as one of the most important contemporary artists, Kiefer is famous for the art audience in Italy regarding his magnificent creations for Hangar Bicocca- Fondazione Pirelli in Milan. The major exhibition “Anselm Kiefer: Fallen Angels” is on view from March 22 until July 21, 2024, filling the noble rooms and courtyard of the palace with Kiefer’s monumental paintings, sculptures, installations and photographs.

Anselm Kiefer has created a completely new exhibition project at Palazzo Strozzi that exalts the strong vitality of his art,” states Arturo Galansino, General Director of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and curator of the exhibition. “Kiefer is one of the greatest living artists, and his research draws from literature, philosophy and history in a continuous reflection on the nature of human existence. At Palazzo Strozzi, his works dialogue with the Renaissance architecture, amplifying the stratified layers of their meanings around themes such as memory, history and war. The exhibition becomes an invitation for all visitors to investigate the complexity of existence between past, present and future, and the dialectic between spirituality and materiality.”

anselm kiefer installation florence

The symbolic expression “fallen angels” referring to the angels expelled from Paradise after rebelling against God becomes the starting point for the exhibition. Kiefer’s allegorical figures and forms reflect on identity, poetry, historical events and diverse philosophical thoughts through the bold use of painting, sculpture, installation and photography. His famed works possess a powerful physical and tactile presence, creating an immediate authentic connection with viewers.

Deeply interested in the alchemical value of materials, Kiefer transforms raw matter like lead, wax, seeds, earth, flowers, sand and ash into imposing, evocative pieces made of dense layers. Utilizing electrolysis or fire, the materials undergo actual physical transformations. The visual sedimentations offer a multitude of readings, continually revealing new details and meanings.

The exhibition’s highlights include the monumental courtyard painting Engelsturz (Fall of the Angel) soaring over 23 feet high, the colossal lead-winged Luzifer (Lucifer) referencing the destruction of war, and the immersive installation Verstrahlte Bilder (Irradiated Paintings) filling an entire grand hall with 60 canvases scarred by radiation yet reflecting on the fragility of life.

Anchored in Kiefer’s lifelong dialogue with literature and philosophy, the show premieres new works like Die Schule von Athen (The School of Athens) and Vor Sokrates (Before Socrates). Hortus Philosophorum (The Garden of Philosophers) symbolizes the merging of earth and sky through a field of sunflowers, one sprouting from the artist’s own navel.

Featuring guided tours, workshops and special events, the exhibition invites all to immerse themselves in Kiefer’s stratified, totalizing art until its final day on July 21st. As the artist states, “Painting is philosophy,” and this seminal show makes a powerful case for art’s enduring ability to elevate the human condition.

The Site-Specific Work for the Courtyard

fallen angel palazzo strozzi court art florence

The centerpiece of the show is Kiefer’s new monumental site-specific work for the Palazzo Strozzi courtyard, titled Engelsturz (Fall of the Angel, 2022-2023). This imposing over 23-foot tall canvas depicts the famous Apocalypse scene of the battle between the Archangel Michael and the fallen angels rebelling against God. Exalted by the open-air Renaissance setting facing the sky, the work invites viewers to reconsider the human relationship between spirit and matter, becoming a metaphor for all humanity’s search for meaning.

The Immersive Installation is the special gem

One of the exhibition’s highlights is the enveloping installation Verstrahlte Bilder (Irradiated Paintings, 1983-2023) which completely fills one of the largest rooms. Comprised of 60 canvases subjected to irradiation, fading and scarring, the haunting environment surrounds visitors with Kiefer’s stratified artworks reflecting on decay and destruction. Large mirrored surfaces amplify the metaphysical experience.

art in florence anselm kiefer immersive installation

Retrospective: Vitrines of Symbolic Materials

A series of vitrines showcase Kiefer’s symbolic arrangements of materials like lead, referring to recurring themes of alienation and isolation. Works like En Sof (The Infinite, 2016) on Jewish mysticism and Das Balder-Lied (The Ballad of Balder, 2018) on Scandinavian literature contain “semi-permeable membranes” that connect the art to the outside world, according to the artist.

Anselm Kiefer in Florence: The Catalog and Public Programs

A richly illustrated catalog with essays explores Kiefer’s complex oeuvre. The exhibition’s public offerings include guided tours, a philosophy lecture series connecting Kiefer’s work to ethical and epistemological questions, and creative workshops for families, teens and adults to engage deeply with the art. Special events like a teen-led tour program extend the experience.

With its panorama of seminal and new works engaged in profound dialogues with literature, history and existential questions, the exhibition cements Anselm Kiefer’s status as one of the most influential artists still working at the vanguard today. The show runs through July 21, 2024 at the illustrious Palazzo Strozzi in Florence.

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