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Anselm Kiefer Withdraws Works From Photo Show : Art: The artist's reported displeasure forces a reworking of the eagerly awaited exhibition of German photography, due at the Lannan Foundation May 22.

April 24, 1993|SUZANNE MUCHNIC | TIMES ART WRITER

The May 22 opening of "Photography in Contemporary German Art: 1960 to the Present" at the Lannan Foundation is an eagerly awaited event in Los Angeles' spring exhibition season. But, through a strange turn of events this week in New York, an important element will be missing when the large traveling exhibition arrives on the West Coast.

Anselm Kiefer, one of the most prominent and highly revered of the 21 artists represented, has demanded that all seven of his large mixed-media works be removed from the 150-piece show.

"We were dismayed to hear that Kiefer had withdrawn," foundation director Lisa Lyons said. "When you lose an artist of that stature, the hole doesn't get plugged." As to Kiefer's reasons for withdrawing, Lyons said that she is in the dark. "I honestly think that only he knows the reason," she said.

The artist could not be reached for comment, but a source close to Kiefer said his action was the result of displeasure with the installation at the Guggenheim. The source also said that Kiefer believes his artworks have been treated with such disrespect that he intends to incorporate them into a larger work that will be destroyed in a ceremonial fire.

Glory Jones, the Guggenheim's press officer, confirmed on Friday that Kiefer's work was in the process of being removed from the museum. She denied that there was anything improper about the installation, but deferred comments to Gary Garrels, chief curator of the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis, who organized the show.

"I have enormous respect for Anselm Kiefer, and I don't want to second-guess his motivations," said Garrels, who worked out the Kiefer withdrawal with the Guggenheim and the Lannan. Garrels said he acted upon the request of Kiefer's New York dealer, Marian Goodman, and that he had not spoken to the artist about his decision. "I don't want to project my uncertainties or my sadness about this onto him," Garrels said.

The exhibition opened last year at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, then traveled to the Dallas Museum of Art and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and to the St. Louis Art Museum and the Forum for Contemporary Art in St. Louis before its current New York engagement. Apparently Kiefer had not seen the show until last week, when he arrived in New York to prepare an exhibition scheduled to open May 8 at Goodman's gallery.

Although Goodman acted as an intermediary for Kiefer, she said she only knows that Kiefer intends to incorporate the withdrawn works into a larger piece. As to the nature of that artwork, she said, "I have no idea," but denied that it is destined to go up in flames on a funeral pyre.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the Lannan Foundation has reconfigured its planned presentation of "Photography in Contemporary German Art," which explores the ways German artists have expanded the physical and conceptual boundaries of photography.

In terms of exhibition space, the loss of Kiefer's works--measuring up to eight feet in width--called for a major readjustment. The exhibition is so large that the foundation had scheduled it in two parts (May 22-June 27 and July 17-Aug. 22) and edited the original checklist of works, Lyons said. After learning of Kiefer's withdrawal, she moved Gunther Forg's work from the second to the first part of the show and reinstated some pieces by other artists that had been deleted.

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