Wednesday, June 06, 2007

at the Grand Palais

went to see Anselm Kiefer's exhibition at the Grand Palais--the kick-off show for a new annual series called MONUMENTA which invites a contemporary artist to grapple with the vast space that is the renovated Grand Palais. and Kiefer nearly succeeds. my only quibble is with his seven corrugated metal constructions, which house most of the work inside the palatial greenhouse space.

the metal boxes are intriguing with their tall narrow entrances. but once you get inside, the interior is very much like a room in the Pompidou: a pleasant white box, obliterating our response to the Grand Palais environment. a bit self-defeating, i think. each box contains a different variation of Kiefer's work--and the box-room dedicated to the work of Celine's Voyage au Bout de la Nuit is particularly evocative, with its storm-tossed paintings--but overall the constructions emphasize the literal, weigh down Kiefer's work with interpretation which he himself says is to be avoided.
"People mustn't try to understand what I am saying through my works. People...must see with their own way of thinking..." says Kiefer. "In a way, each viewer 'finishes' the work with their own vision, their own stance in relation to it." EXACTLY my complaint about the architecturally-exciting but otherwise failed corrugated metal spaces: they're interesting on the outside, contrast beautifully with the swirling metalwork and glass of the Grand Palais, but the boxes control the viewer's response to the artwork. i was happier outside in the great palatial space, appreciating the various concrete towers Kiefer has constructed--the photo above gives you an idea of how effective these half-ruined towers are (ok, also it's not a good ad for cellphone cameras)

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