Eleven years since the Seven Heavenly Palaces was permanently installed, Anselm Kiefer, one of the world's top contemporary artists, returns to reflect on the HangarBicocca exhibition space. And, by adding five enormous, previously unexhibited paintings that he created between 2009 and 2013 (canvases measuring over six metres by seven and a half), he takes a new look at the complexity of the work. The vertical thrust of the work is now accompanied by a horizontal vision that completes the permanent installation, which now has a new title: The Seven Heavenly Palaces 2004-2015.
The reinforced-concrete giants, which rise up to a height of 18 metres, are the best-known and most powerful works on the art scene and have now achieved an iconographic status that makes them emblems of HangarBicocca in the popular imagination. An idea with which Kiefer himself agrees, as he explains: 'The space is included in the work – it is so special that it has become part of it. I thought long and hard about the space that houses The Seven Heavenly Palaces at HangarBicocca, and only later did I decide how to place the paintings.'
In upgrading this work of 2004, the artist has not changed the perspective, but has added a new point of view. Our eyes are drawn not only upwards, for they also dwell on the bases of the towers, giving the work a new level of intensity. It is as though Kiefer had felt the need to give foundations to what, in spite of their grandeur, might seem like flying palaces, in view of their poetic impact.
'In my studio, I have countless paintings waiting to be finished,' adds the seventy-year-old artist who lives and works in Paris, 'some of them even dating from the 1970s and '80s. So I often find myself going back over my work, changing it, developing it and then abandoning it for years. I find it almost impossible to understand when a work is complete.' The new paintings in the installation express a striving towards the divine and towards the relationship between man and nature. They lead us into desolate landscapes, rainbows, skies and dust that recalls the stars and the cosmos. The canvases are: Jaipur, made in 2009; two works from the Cette obscure clarté qui tombe des étoiles series of 2011; the diptych entitled Alchemie (2012) and Die deutsche Heilslinie, painted in 2012 and early 2013.
Walking through the Palaces
But there are more new aspects in Kiefer's work. One in particular will give the visitor to the towers a radically new experience. In the new display, visitors can now walk through the installation: previously, it could be admired only from the outer walkways, whereas now it is possible to enter the towers and experience the work from close-up, from a completely new perspective, with the majestic paintings on the left-hand side of the Nave looking like a theatre backdrop. The effect is remarkable and the scenic impact if anything more intense. 'I wasn't sure about the final outcome: I was afraid the paintings would be too small for this huge hall, but I think it's turned out excellently,' says the German artist. Kiefer completed his work together with Vicente Todolí, the artistic director of HangarBicocca, who curated the display, taking into consideration the particularities of the space. As Todolí himself explains, the display installation 'makes the work more complex and takes the installation into another dimension'.
The Future of HangarBicocca until 2018
Milan has been going through a period of great upheaval in recent years, not only in terms of urban planning but also on a cultural and creative level. And HangarBicocca intends to be at the forefront of this, as Marco Tronchetti Provera recalled when presenting the new installation. The unprecedented display of Kiefer's works thus also marks the beginning of a new programme devised by Todolí for the next three years. From now until 2018 there will be nine solo exhibitions of works by such renowned international artists as Philippe Parreno, Petrit Halilaj, Carsten Höller, Kishio Suga, Laure Prouvost, Miroslaw Balka, Lucio Fontana, Maria Nordman, and Matt Mullican.