Spotlight: In a New Hong Kong Exhibition, Anselm Kiefer Pulls From the Greek Classical Past, While Imagining a Utopian Future

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What You Need to Know: Last week, “Anselm Kiefer: Golden Age” opened at Villepin gallery in Hong Kong, featuring the German painter and sculptor’s recent body of work. Kiefer is widely recognized both for the conceptual facets of his work, frequently engaging with prevalent—and often provocative–historical and cultural issues, as well as his penchant for employing generally uncommon materials in his paintings, like shellac, charcoal, and ash. “Golden Age” presents works dated from between 2020 and 2022, and the show is complemented by guided tours, salon talks, and educational materials, and is on view through September 2023. The title of the show is drawn from mythology, specifically Greek mythology, and the notion that has historically held that Ancient Greece was situated at the apogee of civilization. The theme of the show is in line with Kiefer’s interest in the work of philosopher and critic Ernst Bloch, and his writings on ideas around a Golden Age as a utopian ideal—and its relevance to the future. The works within the exhibition use these concepts as a starting point to envision a utopian ideal through artistic means.

Why We Like It: Kiefer conjures ideas of the utopian ideal through his otherworldly, often gilded, creations. Mountain ranges emerge from fields of gleaming gold leaf in works such as (2022) and (2021–22), evoking a type of mirage, or a fantasy—the milieu of a speculative and imaginary ‘Golden Age.’ The scale of the works offers viewers an immersive visual landscape that shifts with the reflection of light, in many ways a visual metaphor for the illusive and mutable understandings both of what constitutes the historical idea of a golden age as well as the imaginings of a future golden age. In the work (2021–2022), the sense of place is presented as something much more nebulous and abstract. Set within a sea of gold, a bicycle balances on the edge of what, from the title, could be understood as a mountain ridge. Whimsical and poetic, the abstract compositional elements suggest myriad futures, and interpretable, possibilities, while the bicycle, a recurring motif, in the exhibition, alludes to the cyclicality of time and cultural cycles.

According to the Gallery: “We are very pleased to showcase the most recent works of Anselm Kiefer at Villepin, one of the foremost contemporary artists practicing today. It is both an honor and privilege to be presenting the powerful vision of this seismic artist to Hong Kong audiences, and we welcome everyone to come to the gallery to experience Kiefer’s art in-person.

On a personal level, it brings me great joy to be exhibiting Kiefer’s work in our gallery for the first time. I have long admired the artist and share with him a long-standing friendship, having the chance to visit many times his studio near Paris and his foundation in Barjac, South of France.

Kiefer’s latest body of work, ‘Golden Age,’ responds to ancient myths, following his ongoing desire to inspire new perspectives of our modern world, and the challenges we face today. I feel it is a perfect moment to enjoy his art in Hong Kong as the border reopens and everyone is looking towards the future.”—Arthur de Villepin, chairman and co-founder of Villepin

See featured works and inside the exhibition below.

Anselm Kiefer, Für G. Segantini - die bösen Mütter (2022). Photo: Georges Poncet. Courtesy of the artist and Villepin, Hong Kong.

Anselm Kiefer, (2022). Photo: Georges Poncet. Courtesy of the artist and Villepin, Hong Kong.

Anselm Kiefer, To be titled (2020–22). Photo: Georges Poncet. Courtesy of the artist and Villepin, Hong Kong.

Anselm Kiefer, (2020–22). Photo: Georges Poncet. Courtesy of the artist and Villepin, Hong Kong.

Installation view of "Anselm Kiefer: Golden Age" (2023). Courtesy of Villepin, Hong Kong.

Installation view of “Anselm Kiefer: Golden Age” (2023). Courtesy of Villepin, Hong Kong.

Anselm Kiefer, Teocuitlatl (2021–22). Courtesy of the artist and Villepin, Hong Kong.

Installation view of Anselm Kiefer, (2021–22). Courtesy of the artist and Villepin, Hong Kong.

Installation view of Anselm Kiefer, Alkahest (2021–22). Courtesy of the artist and Villepin, Hong Kong.

Installation view of Anselm Kiefer, Alkahest (2021–22). Courtesy of the artist and Villepin, Hong Kong.

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