In 2004, German artist Anselm Kiefer built his site-specific installation “The Seven Heavenly Palaces” in the former industrial complex originally named HangarBicocca. An initiative promoted by gallery owner Lia Rumma on the occasion of the inauguration of the new Milanese exhibition centre dedicated to contemporary art, later renamed Pirelli HangarBicocca. The immense Naves of the former factory are the ideal context for this work which, despite being in an enclosed space, has all the characteristics of a public art intervention. It has become a permanent installation over the years, and has been completed with five large paintings, becoming a “living” place.

The work “The Seven Heavenly Palaces” owes its name to the Palaces described in the ancient treatise of the Jewish tradition “Sefer Hekhalot” from the 5th-6th century AD, which depicts man’s effort to get closer to God, in memory of the monumental architectural constructions of the past. The seven tower-shaped constructions – varying in height between 13 and 19 metres and each weighing 90 tonnes – were made from reinforced concrete modules topped with lead books and wedges. The construction elements are made up of the corner modules of containers for transporting goods (which guarantee the stability of the structures), while lead is used for its symbolic value as an expression of melancholy.

Anself Kiefer, "The Seven Heavenly Palaces" at Pirelli HangarBicocca
Anself Kiefer, “The Seven Heavenly Palaces 2004-2015”. Courtesy Pirelli HangarBicocca. Photo Agostino Osio.

The five large canvases created between 2009 and 2013 expand Anselm Kiefer’s work by forming with the “towers” a single installation entitled “The Seven Heavenly Palaces 2004-2015”. These works arranged along the walls of the monumental space are an expression of the tormented relationship between man and nature, with references to the history of Western thought.

Anselm Kiefer, "Die deutsche Heilslinie", 2012-2013 at Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milano
Anselm Kiefer, “Die deutsche Heilslinie”, 2012-2013 – © Anselm Kiefer; Courtesy Galleria Lia Rumma, Milan/Naples; Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milano – Photo: Agostino Osio.