Anselm Kiefer: Naglfar

Like much of Anselm Kiefer’s work, Naglfar references myth and history. In Norse mythology Naglfar is the boat made from the nails of the dead that carries men into battle with the gods at Ragnarök, the end of the world. Here the boat’s placement on a battered, metallic sea also recalls World War II gunboats, possibly alluding to one of Kiefer’s recurring themes—German history, particularly the rise of Nazism. While symbolism and narrative play important roles in this work, so do its materials—real nail clippings and nailed-on sheets of metal. Combining elements of painting, sculpture, and installation, Naglfar is a multilayered work that evokes a similarly complex past.