Parts of an Anselm Kiefer sculpture that are thought to be collectively worth around $1 million were stolen from the artist’s warehouse in the French town of Croissy-Beaubourg, prosecutors said last week.
The pilfered portions are thought to be large lead books. It wasn’t clear which work was targeted, but other Kiefer works, like The High Priestess/Zweistromland (1985/86), have previously relied on these heavy faux tomes in service of explorations of postwar German trauma. That sculpture, for example, alludes to the archives kept by the Nazis.
A prosecutor in the town of Meaux told the Guardian, “CCTV footage showed four individuals breaching the car park barrier, entering the premises and cutting through the steel fence surrounding the work, before making off with lead books that were part of it.”
It wasn’t the first time that thieves had visited Kiefer’s massive warehouse and walked away with some of his art. Something similar happened in 2016, when a 13-ton stack of book sculptures was stolen, along with many more tons of raw marble. That theft accounted for more than €2 million in damage. Then, in 2019, thieves damaged a Kiefer sculpture at the warehouse while attempting to take some of its raw lead.
In both cases, French investigators claimed that the thieves were after the materials, not the sculptures, and that they did not understand the value of the art. A similar reasoning was once again floated by prosecutors in Meaux.
This theft happened against the backdrop of Wim Wenders’s new documentary Anselm, which hits US theaters beginning Friday. Shot in 3D, the documentary surveys Kiefer’s art and career, and features footage of his warehouse.