It was to be expected that the Anselm Kiefer retrospective, which opened at the Art Institute of Chicago in December, would be accorded a rapturous reception, and so it has been.[1] Throughout the nineteen-eighties, as the art market soared and an almost unencompassable quantity of meretricious painting glutted the galleries, the museums, and the public consciousness, the emergence of a new master—an artist who could be seen as transcending the more compromising scenarios of the new art scene—was anxiously awaited. And no sooner was the need for such a redemptive figure openly acknowledged than a consensus of sorts seemed to settle on Anselm Kiefer as the leading candidate. This young German painter, born in 1945, seemed to have everything that the role called for: talent, vision, ambition, dignity, and the kind of gravitas that was so...


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