Die Woge (The Wave)

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  • Provenance

    Kukje Gallery, Seoul
    Private Collection
    Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Seoul, Kukje Gallery, Anselm Kiefer, 22 September - 17 October 1995
    Zurich, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, New Acquisitions II, 13 January - 3 March 2001

  • Literature

    Anselm Kiefer, exh. cat., Seoul: Kukje Gallery, 1995, front cover

  • Catalogue Essay

    Die Woge (The Wave), executed in 1995, is a characteristic work of the multilayered oeuvre of Anselm Kiefer, one of the most celebrated German artists of today. Inspired by poetry, German history, European and Jewish mythology, as well as the Holocaust, Kiefer creates deeply spiritual, silent, melancholic images that draw the viewer into an alternative world populated with his own mythologies and symbolism. Kiefer extensively uses ashes, hair, straw, lead, cloth, and other materials as the media of his painting in his attempts to picture what cannot be described: “As a metaphor, Kiefer’s pictures are not about what can be seen; they are concerned with what cannot be shown” (Doreet LeVitte Harten, Anselm Kiefer: Lilith, exh. cat., New York: Marian Goodman Gallery, 1991).

    Kiefer’s work is heavy with narrative and replete with symbolism. In Die Woge, the artist turns to Lilith, a figure in Jewish mythology, for the work’s symbolic meaning. Lilith, along with her daughters, became an important motif for Kiefer in 1990 with the exhibition entitled Lilith at the Marian Goodman Gallery in New York. This was the first major exhibition of the artist’s work after the fall of the Berlin Wall. For the following decade, this mythical figure was a recurrent theme in Kiefer’s work. The cotton dresses, tin and ashes represent Lilith, a demonic creature that in Kabbalah presides over all that is impure. Due to her rebellious and destructive nature, Lilith, who, according to the Talmud, is a demon who seduces men and attacks pregnant women, has become a powerful figure in Kiefer’s world view as depicted in his paintings. As a reference to her demonic nature, she is often shown with a snake. She, identified as the ‘first Eve’ in Kabbalah, has been created by God from the same earth as Adam and has been his first wife. However, after being refused in her request to become Adam’s equal and denouncing her creator, she is banished to the shores of the Red Sea to live in the ruins of civilization. The title of the present work may perhaps refer to the waves of the Red sea that consumed her.

    The present lot is an extraordinary representation of the melancholy that is so characteristic of Kiefer’s practice. It can be seen as an extension of the artist’s attempt to reconcile being an artist with 20th-century German history, dominated by the Holocaust. The use of empty dresses evokes memories of the Jewish genocides and the mourning for the loss of loved ones. Through this highly symbolic work, the artist not only memorialises, but also symbolically re-enacts and even issues awarning to the future.


Die Woge (The Wave)

canvas cloth, paint, ashes,lead and cotton on board
280 x 380 cm (110 1/4 x 149 5/8 in)

£350,000 - 450,000 ‡ ♠

sold for £397,250

Contemporary Art Evening

28 June 2012