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A look inside Anselm Kiefer's studio

Phaidon Focus book goes inside the celebrated German artist's sprawling studio complex La Ribaute in France
Inside Anselm Kiefer's studio at La Ribaute, Barjac, France
Inside Anselm Kiefer's studio at La Ribaute, Barjac, France


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Phaidon is the world’s premier publisher of books on the visual arts. We believe passionately in the creative act and aim to make it exciting and understandable by all and to celebrate its greatness in everything we produce. We have published books with some of the most creative artists, architects, designers, photographers and chefs of the 20th and 21st centuries. We work collaboratively with the creative arts world’s most inspiring names to achieve the most faithful representation of, and the truest insight into, the way those artists and visionaries interact with the world around them – whatever medium they work in.

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phaidon.com is currently spending its lunch breaks reading through the excellent Focus series of books that are published next month - today we finished the Anselm Kiefer one by Matthew Biro. First a little about the Focus series. The books are designed as a lively, authorititive and accessible introduction to the work of the artists featured in the (initial) six-strong series (Kim, the editor, is already hard at work on the next instalment). As the title suggests, each features special Focus sections that explore specific and important themes, series, pieces or events in each artist's career, so whether you're new to the artist or you already know a bit you'll come away enlightened and, we hope, nourished.

 

Concrete towers at La Ribaute, Barjac, France

Concrete towers at La Ribaute, Barjac, France

With an artist like Kiefer you can imagine the focus points are many and varied. We don't have room here to bring you a precis of all of them - and naturally we want you to buy the books. However, we can say it was a tough choice picking just one particular 'Focus' to represent what is an engaging yet thorough book by the foremost Kiefer expert. In the end it was a choice between Biro's brilliantly enlightening deconstruction of Kiefer's 1981 work Interior, Innenraum and his description of La Ribaute - the studio complex the artist began creating in the 1990s and what Biro calls 'a total work of art'. In the end, we plumped for the latter purely because it's better suited to a blog entry and because we suspected a few more of our readers might not now that much about it.

 

La Ribaute, Barjac, France

La Ribaute, Barjac, France

"From the mid 1990s, Kiefer’s Barjac studio-estate, which spread over 35 hectares (86 acres), also became his most ambitious project, where he made, displayed, warehoused and imagined his oeuvre. A former silk factory on a hill that the German expatriate transformed into a vast complex of living spaces, studios, workshops and storage facilities, it was also an environment in which he created a new type of ‘land art’ consisting of gigantic concrete structures, some reduced to post-war-like ruins, in the midst of the rural French countryside. For some, La Ribaute was Kiefer’s ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, or ‘total work of art’, a theatrical experience that combined multiple media and that stood as the pinnacle and sum-mation of his career.

As this studio complex developed over 17 years, it grew in shape and complexity. Originally consisting of three nineteenth-century stone buildings surrounded by fields and woods, it was expanded with a single-minded intensity to combine modern functional structures with strange, unwieldy, reinforced-concrete constructions. Since the late 1990s, more than fifty separate edifices – glass and steel greenhouses as well as concrete bunkers - were erected on the property; and, in the new millennium, an amphitheatre and a crypt were added as well as massive concrete towers, sculptural waves and freestanding staircases.

 

Kiefer's studio La Ribaute, Barjac, France

Kiefer's studio La Ribaute, Barjac, France

Paintings and sculptural installations were sited in the various buildings, and as the complex extended, it seemed like a palimpsest of forms and traces from multiple time frames. La Ribaute and its environs were also the vast set on which Kiefer ‘shot’ his photographs. A number of his new books and paintings were based on it, as well as the factory-like ‘alchemical forge’ where he allowed his artistic fabrications to age and transform. As Kiefer’s production increased, La Ribaute also provided a context for developing his various ‘houses’ and ‘greenhouses’ of art, structures that served as containers for different groups of work."

If that little passage has intrigued you you can order Anselm Kiefer here and check out the other artists in the Focus series here.


READ MORE ON ANSELM KIEFER

Anselm Kiefer (b.1945) played a major role in shaping the landscape of post-war German art. Our Phaidon Focus volume is the perfect introduction to his life and work.

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READ MORE ABOUT ANSELM KIEFER
  • Anselm Kiefer
  • Anselm Kiefer
  • Anselm Kiefer
  • Anselm Kiefer
Anselm Kiefer (b.1945) played a major role in shaping the landscape of post-war German art. His vision encompasses philosophy, history and literature – ranging from intimate books that explore German identity to monumental public sculpture installations. Conceptually, Kiefer urges viewers to challenge narratives of war, identity, religion, morality, memory and history. Visually, his paintings ooze physical tactility, incorporating such organic matter as straw and sand, so his canvases become sculptural and affective.

In this well-illustrated, introductory book, you will learn about Anselm Kiefer's work and its origins, development, style, themes, meanings and media.

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Anselm Kiefer

ALSO IN THE PHAIDON FOCUS SERIES

Andy Warhol
Brice Marden
David Smith
Francis Bacon
Robert Rauschenberg

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