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ART SEEN - Anselm Kiefer: Books and Woodcuts

ART SEEN // Explore Switzerland// Education// Art & Culture // By Uli Van Neyghem // March 28, 2019


After several years of covering art-related events and exhibitions in Switzerland, this was a little surprise for Uli Van Neyghem to discover.



A hidden gem: Inspiring art, literature and architecture in the Fondation Jan Michalski 

The Fondation Jan Michalski, in the small village of Montricher, is such a hidden gem. Tucked away in the beautiful countryside at the foot of the Jura mountains behind Morges, the foundation immediately impresses with its unexpected avant-garde architecture.


The foundation's present exhibition highlights the work of German artist Anselm Kiefer who, not restricting himself to sculpture or painting on canvas, also expressed himself in the form of books and journals. In line with their mission to promote the creation of literature, the Kiefer exhibition at the Fondation Michalski concentrates on his body of work in form of books. And they come in all shapes and sizes: from small to binding together giant wooden 'pages'.


Born in 1945 and grown up in postwar Germany, his works often confront German history and the horror of the Holocaust: the shame, as well as the responsibility borne because of it. Kiefer also interprets Germany's cultural heritage, for example in a series on Richard Wagner's cycle of four operas: The Ring of the Nibelung.  


A preferred medium is woodcuts, printed on paper and then collaged onto other surfaces. Kiefer also incorporates unusual materials such as twigs, sunflower seeds, sand, shell, ash or hair; media bound to decay with time. The greater fragility and more temporary nature of these works adds to their meaning. 

The Fondation Michalski is definitely worth a little road trip, not only because of the exhibition, but also because of its unusual architecture, an artwork in itself and the result of creative collaboration: The striking 'canopy roof' and main buildings containing exhibition space and impressive library (included in the visit), were designed by Nyon architects Vincent Mangeat and Pierre Wahlen. The columns supporting this canopy are meant to give the impression of a forest of concrete trees, taking over from the natural ones all around. 


The 11 'tree houses' truly suspended in between these 'abstracted tree trunks' were imagined by different international architects from Brazil, Chili, Japan or Norway, using the same materials (glass, metal, wood and concrete) employed in the other buildings. 7 cabins contain living/working spaces for lodging writers in residence, while the other 4 house the site's administration or meeting rooms. 


You could combine your 'out and about' adventure with a fondue, rösti or other cheesy treat at the 'Fromagerie Gourmande' in the same village: a Swiss cheese dairy in full operation, designed in a way to let you visually experience the cheese making process from the restaurant. It also sports a huge, educational activity space for kids of all ages.


Practical Details

  • What:                        Anselm Kiefer: Books and Woodcuts
  • Where:                      Fondation Jan Michalski, pour l'écriture et la littérature, En Bois Désert 10, 1147 Montricher
  • When:                       Until 12 May 2019 (Tues - Fri: 14:00 - 18:00, Sat - Sun 09:00 - 18:00. Closed 19 & 22 April)
  • Entry Fees:              Adults: CHF 5-.  (CHF 3- for students, seniors etc. Free for under 18s and residents of Montricher.)
  •                                   Free on the first Sunday of each month.





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