Peeking into the exhibition room, feeling an extraordinary atmosphere and be overwhelmed by the power that fills the space, unable to move.
This artwork is at Sezon Museum of Modern Art, Karuizawa. This artwork shocked me when I discovered it at the museum for the first time in 2022. When I first saw the space, I was surprised by the power that filled the space.
I had no idea what the artworks were about, but I was shocked again when I saw the explanation on the plate in the room where the artworks were displayed.
I had seen and admired Anselm Kiefer’s paintings at other museum, so I was aware of the artist. However when I discovered this artwork, I realized once again how great Anselm Kiefer is.
The subject is the women who died in disgrace during the French Revolution. It seems that there is a meaning in mourning for these women.
The installation consists of 14 iron beds placed in a room, name tags affixed to the walls, hollows in the beds and water remaining in them, clods of soil, flowers, and in the back, photographs affixed to lead sheets on the wall is hung. In the photo, withered sunflowers are hanging from above.
Around the time of the French Revolution (1789-1799), women were still in a weak position and supporting men was considered a virtue. This artwork must have expressed the meaning of noting that there were women who were not there, and of not forgetting the fact that in the past, women were treated harshly.
I had the opportunity to visit Karuizawa in 2023 and visited again. I could not go into the room where the beds are lined up, but after checking with the museum staff, I could go inside with staff’s guidance. Photo hanging on the far wall from the entrance of the room could not be seen, but when I stepped inside and saw the photo and the dilapidated bed in front of me, I could not move for a while.
This space seems to be packed with the “heaviness of history” and the “absurdity of human beings”, and the artwork appeals to the viewer’s consciousness. This is that kind of artwork.
According to the museum staff, it used to be possible to go inside, but a viewer damaged the bed, and since then they have stopped allowing people inside. Also, some people who enter the room are said to be offended by the negative energy emanating from this space, which makes sense.
In addition to “Revolutionary Women,” there are two other artworks by Anselm Kiefer at this museum.
One is an installation titled “Empress Elisabeth of Austria” and is on display on the second floor, featuring a historical woman. As I stood in front of the large edition of the artwork, I felt an extraordinary atmosphere, and when I read the explanation on the plate, I groaned.
Another artwork that was not on display is the artwork called “Heliogabal,” which depicts the Roman emperor.
Photography of the artworks is prohibited. Although it is copyrighted by the artist’s instructions, I have received permission to photograph the plate of the artwork, so I am posting it here. The artworks showing here is purchased postcards. Thank you for your understanding.
I sometimes feel “overwhelmed” when I look at artworks and this artwork was truly “overwhelmed”. If you are interested, please visit. This is the artwork worth the time and money to see.
Unfortunately, the Sezon Museum of Modern Art went into a long-term closure for facility renovations on November 1, 2023, just before I wrote this article. It is said that it is scheduled to reopen in April 2026, and I am really looking forward to seeing how it will be displayed in the new environment after renovations.
Visited in 2022, 2023.
■ Name： Women of the Revolution / Anselm Kiefer
■ Address : 2140 Serigasawa, Nagakura, Karuizawa-town, Kitasaku-county, Nagano, Japan (SEZON Museum of Modern Art)
■ Homepage：https://smma.or.jp/en/ (SEZON Museum of Modern Art)
・The Sezon Museum of Contemporary Art will be closed until April 2026 (scheduled).
(described on Nov 12 2023)