I was in Paris, France two weeks ago and while I was there I went with my brother and his girlfriend to see a special art exhibition in the Grand Palais.
The Grand Palais (shown above) is a big building with a glass roof, built for the Paris Exhibition of 1900. In 1993, one of the glass panels in the roof came loose and fell to the ground, so they closed the whole place down to fix it. It only took 12 years or so to make the necessary repairs (which is nothing in France—Some of their cathedrals took hundreds of years to build).
The special exhibition was modern art works by Anselm Kiefer. They are very different from typical artworks and have apparently stirred up quite a buzz in Paris. The most striking pieces are two collapsing (or collapsed) concrete towers.
When we arrived, we got audio guides: portable media players with headsets. In each area, you can enter a number to hear an associated audio recording.
At the first piece of art, I carefully entered the correct number and listened to the audio recording. Anselm Kiefer said that he doesn’t like to interpret his art, but rather prefers people to create their own interpretation based on their own personal history. I thought that was kinda neat. I also wondered what the remaining audio guides might say. Not interpretations, obviously!
So I looked at the first piece of art, a huge picture made with things like lead and dirt(?).
To me, the interpretation was as follows: it showed a man lying on the ground in the middle at the bottom. A road began beside the man and stretched straight up to the horizon. On the road near the man, there was a bag of coins that had fallen off a gypsy caravan, but the caravan was long gone and not visible any more. I wondered why the man was lying on the ground. Was he dead?
What did the audio guide have to say? Anselm Kiefer gave his own interpretation!
Apparently I was totally out to lunch. The road wasn’t a road. It was an Aztec pyramid, and the bag of coins was actually a human heart!
That ticked me off. I had a perfectly good interpretation. Anselm Kiefer had told me (via the audio guide) that I was supposed to make my own interpretation. He then proceeded to give his interpretation. Grrrr! Anselm Kiefer, make up your mind!
Photo Credits: Grand Palais from Wikipedia licensed under the GNU FDL.