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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Anselm Kiefer: Il Mistero delle Cattedrali, White Cube Bermondsey

The new White Cube gallery on Bermondsey Street is a vast and impressive structure... very big and very white. This space is the third and largest White Cube site in London, following the success of the Mason’s Yard and Hoxton Square branches. The building dates from the 1970s and was primarily used as a warehouse before the current refurbishment. It was designed by Casper Mueller Kneer Architects and includes three substantial exhibition spaces, a bookshop and private viewing rooms.

Following a delicious meal at Pizarro I dropped into White Cube Bermondsey to take a peek. I have spoken before about my adoration of the area - great restaurants, cafes, gift shops, and now a great art gallery too, it has it all. The gallery is currently showing the work of internationally renowned German artist, Anselm Kiefer, in the largest presentation his work ever mounted in London.

The spacious, clinical rooms display art in a cool and minimalist fashion, accentuating the work's power without letting it drown in light. Kiefer is showing relentless, giant sculptures that felt austere and cold to me. There is an obvious lack of colour, which is made more apparent in this blank setting. His structures are massive, made from ravaged and salvaged materials, old books, buckets and bicycles; the tall white walls make the collection even more surreal. I was interested in the conundrum of strength versus weakness, a comparison of elements that is illustrated in many of the sculptures, unsteady constructions made in strong materials like lead and stone.
The title of the exhibition, Il Mistero delle Cattedrali (The Mystery of the Cathedrals) is taken from an esoteric publication by Fulcanelli. The name reflects Kiefer’s interest in illusions, mystical and material, he shows magic as he understands it.

Though I loved the gallery space, Kiefer’s work wasn’t quite to my taste. I enjoy art that tells a story, but this work felt one-dimensional in this respect. The sheer scale of the gallery building gives it enormous potential and I am immensely looking forward to its future contributions to London’s art scene.

Exhibition continues until 26 February, visit website here.

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