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  • Provenance


    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    Anselm Kiefer’s body of work is a multifaceted exploration of myth and memory in modern day Germany. Born in 1945, the generation to which Kiefer and his peer artists belonged were charged with a mandate to reclaim and reconstruct the German national identity. Beginning in the mid-1960s, Kiefer began developing a visual language that challenged the absence of a collective memory in German culture.These predominant themes of national identity and myth represent the artist’s approach to understanding and conceptualizing the past. In these early years, Kiefer’s style developed out of a response to the fascist use of images of national identity and culture as symbols of power. In reclaiming these images, the artist was explicitly pointing to the absence of adequate cultural images in post-war Germany.
    Kiefer’s medium – painting – forces the viewer to take a stance, to associate or dissociate with a historical meta-narrative. “This is revealing of the artist’s of imagination which forces the vision to see its configurations as not only figurative images according to a disciplinary logic, but as ‘environmental’ articulations, or rather as a reference to life and to society: a set of historical values, of current conditions and future hypotheses,” (G. Celant. “Ut picture poesis,” Anselm Kiefer, Bilbao, 2007, p. 37). As an artist, Kiefer’s talent lies in his ability to move between these referential spaces, manipulating the philosophical and political myths that occupyWestern mythology.These myths are crucial allegories for expression within Kiefer’s visual language, as they represent an artistic effort to reconcile a rupture within the icons, myths, and themes of German culture.
    The Secret Life of Plants represents Kiefer’s ability to construct highly complex metaphors rich with layers of personal experience and collective memory. The present lot, which derives its name from an eponymously titled book, is a fascinating account of the physical, emotional, and spiritual relations between plants and man.Within Kiefer’s working method, quotation is a strategy for resurrection. “Quotation is a means of inversion, a kind of hologram, something spanning the space between past and future.We can therefore regard Kiefer’s referential method as a model of memory itself, in which a phantom presence of the past suddenly breaks into and immobilizes the present,” (A. Lauterwein, Anselm Kiefer, Paul Celan: Myth, Mourning and Memory, NewYork, 2007, p. 15).
    Kiefer’s artistic media involves disparate materials, from lead to dried flowers and tree branches.The physical materiality and surface complexity, in addition to the vast scale of the canvas, endows The Secret Life of Plants with a forceful presence.The use of dried and decaying materials further reinforces the artist’s concern for the effects of time and any visual or chemical changes to the materials are accepted as inherent to the work.These primordial elements, which underlie all of life, become fundamental to the art object. Both literal and metaphorical, Kiefer’s media is the most apt symbol he employs for the range of emotions he feels about German character and the history and future of his country.

131

The Secret Life of Plants

2001

Oil and acrylic on lead, wire, and plaster coated branches on canvas in two parts.

110 1/2 x 347 x 7 1/2 in. (280.7 x 881.4 x 19 cm).

Estimate
$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for $1,833,000

Contemporary Art Part I

15 May 2008, 7pm
New York