To inaugurate the Herta and Paul Amir building of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, German artist Anselm Kiefer has created a site specific exhibition in the 9,000 square foot special exhibition gallery. Shevirat Ha-Kelim (the breaking of the vessels) is a continuation of the artist’s exploration of Jewish tradition and mysticism, which the artist has been working with since the 1970s. Both older and more recent works, mostly from the artist’s private collection, will be on exhibition, including an array of painting, sculpture, woodcuts, and installation.
The actual installation of Shevirat Ha-Kelim is a lead bookcase with glass shards spilling out onto the gallery floor. The piece references the Kabbalistic philosophy, representing the displacement and shattering of the original ten vessels that contained God’s light. When the vessels were broken, only the virtues of Will, Wisdom, and Understanding remained while those pertaining to spiritual, moral, aesthetic, and material values were broken.
Anselm Kiefer, Arat (2011). Oil emulsion, acrylic, chalk and lead boat on canvas.
The works in Shevirat Ha-Kelim are richly textured, following the biblical texts and stories that inspired them. Heavy in metaphor and material, Kiefer’s works embody the physicality of conflict—historical and personal, old and new. However, the works’ intent is not to focus on this tension, instead their creation and exhibition act as a point of reconciliation. The installations East-West Diwan and the show’s namesake Shevirat Ha-Kelim are examples of this attempt to recognize and perhaps unify the unnecessary lines often drawn by culture and history.
Shevirat Ha-Kelim was organized by the artist and the late Professor Mordechai Omer, Director and Chief Curator of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, who passed away before the project was fully realized. Omer is known for commending Mr. Kiefer’s ability to confront German history and the atrocities of WWII through his work’s engagement of Jewish themes.
– J. Schwartz