ANSELM KIEFER exhibition in China

Beate Reifenscheid, the chief curator of “Coagulation,” an exhibition of Anselm Kiefer’s work that opened at Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum last November—which Kiefer and his gallerists did not support, as the artist says he was not involved in the show’s organization—has spoken out against the artist and his galleries, writes Georgina Adam of the Art Newspaper.

As reported in November 2016, Kiefer criticized the exhibition in a statement: “Throughout my career I have been heavily involved in all my major international exhibitions and it is a matter of deep regret and frustration that the organizers of my first show in China have seen fit to exclude me from this process.” Reifenscheid says that the artist’s comments violate curatorial freedom: “Curators must respect the artist but also be able to work for the wider public’s benefit. If all artists and their art dealers could control when, where, and why their art is displayed in museums after it’s sold, the public interest would not be fully served.” One of Reifenscheid’s colleagues, the critic and curator Klaus Honnef, stated, “I am convinced that the so-called global players in art dealing threaten not only curatorial freedom . . . They work hand-in-hand with private and allied collectors. Nearly all important artists, meaning those with high commercial potential such as Kiefer, are represented by these powerful art dealers . . . who are protecting their financial interests. This is the real background to the problems with the CAFAM exhibition.”

CAFAM enlisted the help of Bell Art—an organization based in Hamburg that encourages cultural exchange between Europe and China—when it put the show together. Eighty of the eighty-seven works in the exhibition belong to Chinese collector Maria Chen Tu, who lives in Germany. Five others were on loan from private collections to the Ludwig Museum in Koblenz, which Reifenscheid directs (she was, however, not paid for coordinating the Kiefer show while working for Bell Art).

The galleries who represent Kiefer—Gagosian, Thaddaeus Ropac, and White Cube—also support the artist in his criticism. On the artist’s and galleries’ behalf, Thaddaeus Ropac said, “We categorically reject the idea that we were against the exhibition at CAFAM in Beijing because of commercial interests. Why would the exhibition have a negative commercial impact on [Kiefer’s] galleries? Our role is to support our artists in all their ideas and projects, whether they are commercial or not.” Ropac also stated that when he first received notice about the CAFAM exhibition, he tried contacting Reifenscheid, who refused to speak to him.