A place for the anxious.
Sometimes I wonder if the Art world got together and decided to present a vision that reflects my exact emotional state. I guess it's more likely that I bring my emotions to art-viewing experiences and walk away feeling like the artist sees right through me.
I've already mentioned that Art in Italy reflected my feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, even fear for the future. Case in point, Anselm Kiefer's dizzying permanent installation at Pirelli Hangar Bicocca.
Before I get to the art, a note on patronage in Italy. From the popes of the Catholic church to the House of Medici, Italy has a long history of arts patronage. But that attitude isn't just historical. I was repeatedly surprised at how today's great families and fortunes of Italy continue an extreme dedication to funding arts and artists. What I found most interesting was the willingness to provide space for permanent installations. These spaces felt almost like modern cathedrals reserved as hallowed halls for the art of our time. And like the art of the past, these works are designed to inspire awe, wonder, and maybe even anxiety.
Which leads me to The Seven Heavenly Palaces (2004 - 2015) by Anselm Kiefer, a monumental installation permanently displayed in the cavernous Hangar Bicocca. Each of the towers weighs 90 tons. They are created with reinforced concrete that was formed using the ridged structures of shipping containers. Between the sections of the towers are lead plates and wedges which compress, stabilizing the towers under the weight of the concrete. The lead also creates symbolic meaning thanks to its traditional association with melancholy. And this work oozes melancholy. Its tilting ruins are like post-war remnants designed to remind us of a better time before all those explosions. Or maybe it's a warning of an inevitable post-apocalyptic future that we just can't stop ourselves from realizing.
The same vast, dark gallery featured five massive paintings also by Kiefer, that added to the solemn tone. These images heightened the sense of loneliness. They made me realize that life will never be fair. I suppose I've always known that, but choose to ignore it. I guess it's best to learn the truth. At least it the hard truth was delivered in a beautiful, haunting way that made it easier to swallow.
If you'd like more information about (or a differing opinion of) Anselm Kiefer's The Seven Heavenly Palaces, the excellent installation guide for the installation is available as a PDF here.
Creative director and art nerd contemplating travel, books, theater, and art.