A new public art project is taking flight (metaphorically speaking) at Rockefeller Center, where Anslem Kiefer—the German Neo-Expressionist painter, sculptor and all-around art-world heavyweight—is debuting his first-ever outdoor sculpture commission in the United Stated. Uraeus, as it’s called, consists of a sort of opened Guttenberg’s bible on steroids, sprouting wings as it lords over viewers from atop a 20-foot pole installed in Rockefeller Center’s Channel Gardens. Additional tomes are piled around the base of the pole, which is also wrapped from top to bottom by a coiling snake.
Clad in lead sheeting (one of Kiefer's signature materials), the piece is inspired by ancient Egyptian symbolism (the wings are meant to evoke the headdresses and necklaces worn in Pharaoh’s court in honor of the vulture goddess Nekhbet) and the writings of Nietzsche—particularly his notions about the will to power, the death of God and the Übermensch. If all of this sounds majorly mythic, well, Kiefer—whose work has been feted over the years with major retrospectives at both MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art—has never shied away from grand allegories. You can catch his book smart extravaganza through July 22.