Matthew Biro

Lecture 10: Kiefer in Barjac


Between 1993 and 2007, “La Ribaute,” Anselm Kiefer’s studio-estate in Barjac, France, also became his most developed artwork, the site where the artist created, collected, and re-imagined his art, while working with a fluctuating team of assistants. A former silk factory on a hill that Kiefer transformed into a vast complex of living spaces, studios,workshops, and storage facilities, it was also an environment in which he created a new type of “land art” consisting gigantic concrete structures, some reduced to postwar-like ruins, amidst the rural French countryside. Because of its monumentality, its environmental and experiential qualities, and the fact that it synthetized multiple media, “La Ribaute,” has been called a “Gesamtkunstwerk,” Kiefer’s total work of art. This assessment is, as we shall see, correct, but with qualifications, which need to be drawn from the concept’s history.


Matthew Biro is Chair and Professor in the Department of the History of Art and the University of Michigan. Originally trained as a continental philosopher, he came to art history through an interest in aesthetics and visual thinking. He is the author of two books, Anselm Kiefer and the Philosophy of Martin Heidegger (New York and London: Cambridge University Press, 1998) and The Dada Cyborg: Visions of the New Human in Weimar Berlin (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), and his articles on modern and contemporary art and philosophy have appeared in Art History, the Yale Journal of Criticism, RES, Art Criticism, and New German Critique, among other places. His reviews of contemporary art, film, and photography have appeared in Artforum, Contemporary, Art Papers, The New Art Examiner, and he has also written for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Clio, CAA Reviews, and the European Legacy. He is currently working on a book about the photographer Robert Heinecken.

Diana Clarke