Anselm Kiefer, Uraeus, 2017-2018 Photo: Georges Poncet.

Anselm Kiefer’s First Public Work in the United States Debuts this Spring

German artist Anselm Kiefer’s first site-specific outdoor public sculpture in the United States, titled Uraeus, will be unveiled this spring at the top of Rockefeller Center’s Channel Gardens in New York. Commissioned by the Public Art Fund and the real estate company Tishman Speyer, the sculpture is of a large open book that has the wings of an eagle that span thirty feet. The tome sits on top of a twenty-foot-tall lead-clad, stainless-steel column featuring a snake coiled around it. Clustered around the base of the column are more books.

“A public commission several years in the making, the iconography of Uraeus evokes classical mythology, soaring with possibility, yet bound by the weight of history,” the Public Art Fund's director and chief curator, Nicholas Baume, said. “Today, the digital age proliferates and democratizes knowledge as never before, while the very idea of truth is questioned and debated. One of our most literary artists, Kiefer returns to the symbolism of the book: elevated and powerful but also dangerous and vulnerable.”

The sculpture’s title, Uraeus, refers to the shape of an Egyptian cobra, which is associated with the serpent goddess Wadjet—a symbol of power and divine authority. The wings evoke the headdresses and necklaces worn by Egyptian royalty in homage to the vulture goddess Nekhbet. Wadjet and Nekhbet were the guardians of Lower and Upper Egypt, and following ancient Egypt’s unification, they became the joint patrons of the civilization. The work also references Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous philosophical work of fiction Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1891).

In conjunction with the exhibition, Kiefer will give a Public Art Fund Talk at the New School on April 30, where he will discuss his new work and past public art projects. Uraeus will be on view from May 2 to July 22 at the Fifth Avenue entrance to Rockefeller Center’s Channel Gardens between Forty-Ninth and Fiftieth Streets in Midtown Manhattan.