Uraeus, Anselm Kiefer's first site-specific outdoor public sculpture ever to be commissioned for the United States will be on display this spring at the top of the Channel Gardens, facing Fifth Avenue. Ureaus, presented by Gagosian and organized by Public Art Fund and Tishman Speyer, consists of a gigantic open book with eagle's wings 30 feet in span, both made of lead, on top of a 20-foot-tall lead-clad stainless steel column. Clustered around the base of the column are further outsize lead books, while a large snake coils up the column. Lead is one of the artist's preferred materials for its soft, fluid properties traditionally associated with alchemical transformation, especially its second stage: dissolution.
Kiefer is the most prominent German artist of the generation born in or shortly after World War II, a figure of international standing who was recently awarded the J. Paul Getty Medal (2017).
The sculpture's cryptic title, Uraeus, refers to the erect shape of the Egyptian cobra, associated with the serpent goddess Wadjet and a symbol of power and divine authority. The wings evoke the headdresses and necklaces worn by Egyptian royalty in homage to the vulture goddess Nekhbet. Wadjet and Nekhbet were the guardians of Lower and Upper Egypt, respectively, and following ancient Egypt's unification, became the joint patrons of the civilization.