Bibliothek, 1995. Glass, concrete, and plaster, excavation 530 x 706 x 706 cm.

Searching for the Heavens When I Look Downward: A Conversation with Micha Ullman

In Germany, Israeli sculptor Micha Ullman achieved fame with his extraordinary memorial, the underground Bibliothek on Berlin’s Bebelplatz. The square room, its walls lined with empty shelves, is located exactly where the Nazis burned thousands of books on May 10, 1933. Ullman rarely creates sculptures above ground level; he sinks his works into the earth. He has incorporated dirt and sand into his materials since 1972, beginning with an exchange of soil between an Israeli and a Palestinian village. His works are often small, rather than monumental (he uses the term “miniment” to describe them). Born in Tel Aviv in 1939, Ullman studied art in Jerusalem and London. He has taught art in Jerusalem and Haifa, was a visiting professor at Düsseldorf in 1976, and came to Berlin in 1989 as an artist-in-residence at the DAAD academic exchange program. He has held a professorship at the State Academy of Art and Design Stuttgart since 1991. When Ullman protested the construction of an underground parking garage around Bibliothek, his work met with a wave of support from the citizens of Berlin. The garage was built, but the work is now accessible again and has, as Ullman himself says today, lost nothing of its authenticity.