Cultural events

Anselm Kiefer and the alchemy of books


  • Anselm Kiefer, Nigredo (detail) © Anselm Kiefer – Photo © Ben Westoby – Courtesy White Cube

    Anselm Kiefer, Nigredo (detail), 1998

  • Practical information

  • François-Mitterrand

    Tuesday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
    Sunday, 13 a.m. - 7 p.m. (closure of the pay desk: 6 p.m.)
    Closed on public holidays

    Full price: 9 € (one ticket for two exhibitions: 11 €)
    Reduced price: 7 € (one ticket for two exhibitions: 9 €)

    FNAC Reservation: 0892 684 694 (0,34 €/mn all taxes included) and at

from October 20, 2015 to February 7, 2016 François-Mitterrand / Galerie 2

The Bibliothèque nationale de France organizes an exhibition dedicated to Anselm Kiefer’s books. The original layout made by the German artist allows to discover over one hundred books achieved between 1968 and 2015, presented with recent sculptures and paintings.

Worldwide famous, Anselm Kiefer is mainly known for his paintings and sculptures even if his whole work originates in books that represent 60% of his creations. Paradoxically, there was no retrospective presenting his books in the past. His artist’s books are unique.  Their size and presentation have been evolving over the decades. Sometimes very large, they enclose various materials such as clay, sand, ashes, hair, plants, straw, photos and lead which is the preferred medium of the artist. He first used it as leaves or fragments before making, in the late Eighties, true books weighing between 70 and 200 kgs. For Anselm Kiefer, the material is both attractive for its great plasticity and for its poetic and spiritual power.

Anselm Kiefer wishes to immerse visitors in the most intimate aspects of his artistic universe and organized the exhibition area in different spaces usually not accessible to the public: his workshop or his library. The exhibition will present two reading rooms and his first conceptual books using photography, another of Kiefer’s preferred media and an integral part of his work since 1968.

Through a selection of over one hundred pieces, it will explore the various topics the artist has been dealing with for over forty years. Visitors will have the opportunity to discover the following pieces: a collection of books dedicated to writers, cosmogonies (The secret life of plants) or antic myths (Gilgamesh and Enkidu); sand books, burnt books, books made of lead and recent books of erotic watercolours made on plaster. For the first time ever, Anselm Kiefer’s books will be presented in keeping with about ten other works, either sculptures or paintings that evoke books. A library, Shevirat Ha-Kelim (Breaking of the vessels), will also be presented. Made of about thirty volumes of broken lead and glass, it evokes the cabalistic myth of the divine act of creation according to Isaac Louria. This exhibition, especially created for the BnF, discloses Anselm Kiefer’s artistic process, books being at the core of this process. It also shows which way the artist moves from one medium to another. Eventually, it reveals how much written things are at the centre of his work and how literary, philosophical and historical references nourish his art. 

Video trailer

Bande annonce de l'exposition Anselm Kiefer, l’alchimie du livre

Monday, October 26, 2015

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