The sculpture is the color of dark slate, a chalky grey. The aircraft balances on two lumpy wheels. It feels worn, abandoned, and because it’s made of sheets of lead, impossibly heavy.  Let’s begin with the front.   The aircraft has a sloping, elongated nose that is crumpled at the tip.   Deep fissures lead away from the tip of the nose toward the body of the plane.  Where you might expect to find a window, you find instead a solid mass. If there were a pilot at the seat of this jet plane, she or he would have zero visibility. White streaks trickle down the sides of the nose.  In the center of the plane, a clear glass polyhedron rests on the plane’s left wing. It opens at the top, and is partially filled with ash.  The polyhedron’s outer lines are crisp and smooth, as if it came to rest on the wing after the plane became mangled. The plane’s wide triangular wings are misshapen, with bent tips. Some of the seams that hold the wings onto the plane’s body seem to be peeling away. Hanging under the wings are four slightly misshapen elliptical tubes, two on each side, representing the engines. They are open at the front, and their cavities are stuffed with curling strips of lead. The body of the aircraft is marked by dents, bulges, and cracks. It looks like it would be rough and gritty to touch — and dangerous, given all the ruts and sharp edges. At the back of the plane, the tail wing juts up from the rear like a shark fin. This jet plane appears to have been molded by hand. Its outer edge is in tatters. In all, this sculpture feels dense and battle-weary, a fossilized remnant of war.
Anselm Kiefer
Melancholia , 5/14/2016

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Artist name
Anselm Kiefer
Date created
lead, glass, steel, and ash
wood, expanded polyurethane foam, hard plastic wheels
65 3/4 in. x 174 in. x 126 in. (167.01 cm x 441.96 cm x 320.04 cm)
Date Acquired
The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, fractional purchase
© Anselm Kiefer
Permanent URL
Artwork Status
On view on floor 6 as part of German Art After 1960.

Surrounded by his paintings in SFMOMA’s galleries, German artist Anselm Kiefer describes the challenges and significance of exploring the past in his work. He highlights the subjective, emotional nature of both history and art.

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