The Seven Heavenly Palaces

A little while ago when I went to see the ‘bau bau‘ exhibition at Milan’s Hangar Bicocca, I also visited (once again) my favourite permanent exhibition there, I Sette Palazzi Celesti.  The Seven Heavenly Palaces by Anselm Kiefer was a site specific installation created for the opening of the Hangar in 2004. The name of the installation comes from the ancient Hebrew treatise Sefer Hechaloth – the Book of Palaces/Sancturies.

Kiefer is one of the best known contemporary artists and his work pays reference to ‘German philosophy, Romantic symbolism, Germanic mythology, Judaic-Christian religiousness, alchemy as the ability to transform the world and the metaphor of art and its role in interpreting reality’.

The Seven Heavenly Palaces, made using reinforced concrete, each weighing 90 tonnes and varying between 14 and 18 metres in height are supposed to interpret the ancient religion of Judaism, while representing the ruins of the West following the Second World War and movement into the future, while asking us to consider the ‘ruins of our present’.


Each tower is themed and named individually:

1.) Sefiroth  – representing the ten instruments of God in Hebrew mysticism of Kabbalah

2.) Melancholia – featuring glass and strips of paper at its base, which signify “falling stars”

3.) Ararat – this tower takes its name from the mountain where according to the Bible Noah’s Ark ran aground. It symbolises peace and salvation.

4.) Magnetic Field Lines – features a film of lead running down the tower – a material which repels light and therefore stops any image being created. In the exhibition guide it suggests this represents Kiefer’s own idea that each new piece of work cancels out the previous one.

5 & 6.)  JH&WH – these letters join together in Hebrew phonetics to form the word Yahweh meaning God, but which Jews consider too holy to verbalize.

7.) Tower of the Falling Pictures – the name of this tower is quite literal, it features picture-less picture frames, some shattered on the ground.



Sefiroth Tower



Sefiroth Tower



Glass and Paper strips with numbers on which correspond to the classification of heavenly bodies used by NASA – at the foot of the Melancholia Tower

The reason I find this installation so fascinating, is the sheer size of it! When you stand in the Hangar amongst these giant, overwhelming towers, you feel very insignificant and small. It does as the artist intended, make you think about the ruins of the Second World War, but also stays relevant to our ‘ruins of the present’ as it could easily be the remains of a modern building in any of the war torn countries in our world. It certainly makes you reflect upon what you are seeing, and as the space is so immense, the sound in the Hangar as you walk around is quite eerie. Whilst there is no music, you can hear your footsteps and the whispers of other visitors reach you around the corners of the towers, but the way they are positioned, often restricts your view of the speakers.  Whilst you wouldn’t immediately think that reinforced concrete would be the most aesthetically pleasing material, there really is beauty in the towers and they way they are lit and what they are supposed to represent.  Definitely worth a visit!

Have you visited the exhibition or another by Kiefer? What did you think?


(All pictures are my own except for 1 and 6, for which I must thank my friend Anna! :))

An afternoon of interactive art

One of the great things about having friends in town, especially ones who used to live here, means they are usually keen to go to an exhibition or gallery with you.  So last Sunday my friend and I made our way to one of my favourite exhibition spaces in Milan, Hangar Bicocca, to see the first solo exhibition in Italy of Céline Condorelli.  The title of the exhibition “bau bau” is a play on words, relating to the Italian meaning of ‘bau bau’ as the barking of a dog and the German word ‘bau’ for construction.


The works which were presented by Condorelli, offered up physical encounters between the art and the viewer and we were encouraged at various points to sit and climb on specific pieces. This is one thing I particularly enjoyed, as I often find modern art quite hard to understand and to see the vision behind it, but getting stuck in and really experiencing the art definitely helps – and leaves you in fits of giggles when you get scared climbing back down the ladder – it was higher than it looks!


Built using several separate pieces of furniture, each piece becomes reliant on the others and therefore can’t stand alone. Once you are on the ladder, it acts as an extension to the human body.


My friend looking very at ease with the art….on the other hand, I, in her words, look like I have been put on the naughty step!


The exhibition featured installations as well as sculpture, video and text and it showed variations in light and time, black and white, daytime and night-time.


This gold curtain blows gently in the wind and separates dark from light, hot from cold, inside from out.




This was one of my favourite pieces, showing an Egyptian cotton field from around the 1930’s. It was enormous and really quite beautiful – and hid an archive containing material on the textile and rubber industry.

Whilst I didn’t understand the meaning of all of the installations, I learnt a lot and certainly had a lot of fun…plus before heading home we got frozen yoghurt! So all in all a successful Sunday!