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Deutschlands Geisteshelden

Anselm Kiefer
1973
oil and charcoal on burlap mounted on canvas
120 1/2 x 267 3/4 in. (306.1 x 680.1 cm)
Douglas M. Parker Studio, Los Angeles

Anselm Kiefer, Deutschlands Geisteshelden, 1973

 

NARRATOR

We're looking at a painting by Anselm Kiefer, called "Deutschland Geisteshelden," which translates to "Germany's Spiritual Heroes." At the bottom you see a number of names; all of those names are figures in the German artistic identity.

 

And so, we get the sense that this room is a hall of heroes or a hall of monuments. But unlike the way that we would typically think of a hall of monuments as gilded in gold and outlaid in marble, this is a very rough-cut room. Some people have thought that this may echo the hunting lodge of Hermann Göring, the military general who actually stored looted art work during World War II in his home called Carinhall.

 

One of the things about the Third Reich was that it was very much an aesthetic movement as well as a political and military one. Hitler was very interested in art. And so, here is this young painter in the 70s, that is ripping open that history and demanding that we look at it. And implicating not only himself but his country in that past.

 

It was extraordinary. It hadn't been done before. And he did it inside of the language of the very art that became the Reich. It's the triumphal music of Wagner. These romantic landscape paintings from the late 18th and early 19th century.

 

There's a lot to be gained from the great careers and lives that these individuals have had. But there's also complication as well, and I think Kiefer leaves that open when you look at this extraordinary painting.