In a panel of shimmering black, Anselm Kiefer’s Olympia, 1989, raises an ethereal figure from its astral depths. The titular Olympia references the ancient Hellenic sanctuary where Greeks gathered for the Olympic Games, which they played to celebrate and curry favour with Zeus. Mount Olympus itself is both home to the twelve Olympians, or the reigning Greek gods, as well as the country’s highest mountain. Here is where myth and reality collide, and in the two equal panels of Olympia, Kiefer’s divine figure breathes life into the world of men. Indeed, the relationship between the spiritual and man-made realms is one of the artist’s chief preoccupations, here further embodied by his use of lead. The material ‘affects me more than all other metals,’ Kiefer has said. ‘In alchemy, this metal stood on the lowest rung of the process of extracting gold. On the one hand, lead was bluntly heavy and connected to Saturn, the hideous man – on the other hand it contains silver and was also already the proof of other spiritual levels’ (A. Kiefer, quoted in G. Celant, Anselm Kiefer, exh. cat., Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum, 2007, p. 183). Reincarnating ancient beliefs in paint has long been central to Kiefer’s practice, first through his examinations of the post-war German psyche and then as a means for understanding the world to which he bears witness. Through his own symbolic system, Kiefer not only allegorizes the past but also gives language to contemporary experience. In Olympia, the gods of Attica transcend time only to be reborn once again.