The air is tight.

Visitors speak in lowered tones.

The voices carry and bounce differently in here than the other galleries. They swirl around a little more.

Contrasted against the leaden, still flutter of the wings.

It is a sanctuary, a worshipful space, reiterated by the slim podium holding the heavy, open book.

The wings are cumbersome.

The pages are weighty.

Wings that can’t fly; pages that can’t be turned.

Both are stagnant.

The pages—like the gallery walls—are gray, cold, and blank.

In this space the work becomes enshrined.

The gallery becomes a sanctum, and the work a sacred marker.

Anselm Kiefer has a history of creating images of muted ceremonial spaces. His painting Papst Alexander VI: Die goldene Bulle, 1996, depicts a monumental Aztec pyramid. The residue of a sacrificial offering—a river of gold—runs down the ancient stone steps. Another painting, Aschenblume, 1983–97, portrays a decaying rendering of the Mosaic Room in the Reich Chancellery in Berlin. The interior fades into the rough dirty surface of the painting. Columns flank the vast interior and become magmatic cloisters staggering back in space around a single dead sunflower.

Both paintings are ancient, mythical, and mysterious. But neither are quite as poignant nor ethereal as the romance between art and space, lead and concrete, soft curves and harsh lines. Book with Wings, 1992–94, in the ellipse gallery is a beautiful marriage between an artwork and its place.

Author: 
Tiffany
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