MASS MoCA recycles building for Anselm Kiefer exhibit

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) is making headlines in the arts world for its plans for a new addition. As students who make countless trips down Route 2, we are all familiar with the enormous abandoned factories and buildings that line the road from Williamstown to North Adams. The creative and quirky museum has devised yet another innovative way to give new purpose to one of these forgotten structures.

MASS MoCA will transform a 10,000-square-foot building that was once used to house a water filtration tank into a new gallery. The new structure will be simple and sleek, in stark contrast to the red-bricked building complex that  currently houses the museum.

Similar to the Sol LeWitt show produced by the Yale University Art Gallery – which has been at MASS MoCA since November 2008 and is intended to remain at the museum for 25 years – this new gallery will house borrowed works for 15 years. While MASS MoCA is renowned for specializing in short-term shows, the success of the Sol LeWitt show inspired this current innovative project with the work of a different artist.

The new gallery will be dedicated to the work of Anselm Kiefer, a German artist born in 1945 during a period of immense transition for his home country following the end of World War II. Kiefer is one of the most well known German artists and he is still producing work today. Known to mix mediums in innovative ways, such as layering paint and straw over photographs, Kiefer’s work is both two- and three- dimensional and spans an array of mediums. His art focuses on images of literary history, myths, military objects and architectural structures. A testament to how small the global art world is, Kiefer visited MASS MoCA back in 1990 before the space was even out of the planning stages.

The cavernous building will allow MASS MoCA to showcase large installation pieces that are difficult to display in ordinary museums. The exhibition’s centerpiece is titled “Narrow Are the Vessels,” which consists of an 82-foot long, six ton, winding concrete sculpture that was lent to the museum by the Hall Art Foundation established by collectors Andrew J. Hall and Christine Hall. “Narrow Are the Vessels” was obtained from the Halls after a lawsuit that ultimately led them to remove the sculpture from their property in Connecticut and lend it to the museum for the next 15 years. Money for the project also came from the Hall Art Foundation, which hopes to continue to use the new gallery as an exhibition space for its collection, some of which is ordinarily housed in Reading, Vt. The Halls’ loss gives many people the privilege of seeing a work that has been in storage and could not be shown in either a meaningful way or in a space that was easily accessible to the public. There are few places one can see Kiefer’s work, especially one of this size.

Not only will “Narrow Are the Vessels” be shown in this new gallery, but there will also be other important works from Kiefer’s extensive repertoire including “The Women of the Revolution,” a piece comprised of beds in conjunction with photographs and text.

While MASS MoCA will host a larger exhibit, the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) will be opening a show of Kiefer’s earlier works, from 1969 to 1982, the same day the new gallery opens to the public at MASS MoCA later this month on Sept. 27.

With Kiefer’s work on display at WCMA and the larger exhibit at MASS MoCA, students can enjoy free admission to both museums. It is a great opportunity to understand the works of one of the most famous German artists of the modern era.