Anselm Kiefer - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 14, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galleria Lorcan O’Neill, Rome
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner, 2010

  • Catalogue Essay

    "This question of scale is something people keep coming back to. But for me it’s not the point. As an artist you go as far as your arm can reach, and this is my size, my temperament, my gesture." Anselm Kiefer, 2014

    For an artist whose fundamental concern is to experience history in order to understand it, Anselm Kiefer’s own narrative becomes vital in order to both experience and comprehend the thick impastos of oil paint comprising San Loretto, 2009. Kiefer was born to an orthodox Roman Catholic family near the borders of Switzerland and France in the final weeks of the Second World War, a place where remains of the destruction were omnipresent but the war itself was never spoken of. Quietly existing just beneath the darkness, and suspended between symbols of deterioration and hope, emerges the present lot, an immense canvas portraying a winged boulder, replete in tones of jet black and ashen gray. The title alludes to the home professed to be the residence of the Holy Family, and is deeply believed by the devout to have been miraculously carried from Nazareth to the Italian town bearing its name. Teeming with the somber radiance of embers, this curious and dusty form coalesces the Catholic myth with the artist’s own spiritual convictions in the redemptive potential of art. Speaking to the hushed promise beneath the parched surface of his works, Kiefer has elaborated, “People think of ruins as the end of something, but for me they were the beginning. When you have ruins you can start again." (M. Hudson, “Anselm Kiefer on life, legacy and Barjac: ‘I have no style, I’m not a brand’, The Telegraph, 2014)

    The thematic foundation of Kiefer’s oeuvre, though emotionally-charged and swarming with acute energy, represents a quiescent examination of philosophy, mythology and alchemy, all through massive proportions. Abandoning his immersion in the study of law for the study of art, Kiefer relocated to Düsseldorf in 1970 where he met the profoundly influential performance artist Joseph Beuys. After this serendipitous meeting, Kiefer’s work became suffused in the themes of myth and history, though he remained starkly apathetic with any notion of reinvigorating the genre of history painting. On the contrary, he sought to uncover the stratified quality of classical techniques through drawing and symbolism so as “to approach in an unscientific way the centre from which events are controlled.” (A. Kiefer, Art, 1990) While Kiefer remains adamant that Beuys played more the role of morale-booster rather than any sort of artistic teacher, both visionaries share a captivation with the metaphysical characteristics of materials. The implications of his materials are equitably important as their physicality; this particularly rings true in the present lot in which the canvas—and the painting’s hopeful transmission—is buried beneath dense, nearly impenetrable coats of oil paint. Of his singular technique which we see fully realized in the present lot, Kiefer emphatically has stated, "As an artist you have to find something that deeply interests you. It’s not enough to make art that is about art, to look at Matisse and Picasso and say, how can I paint like them? You have to be obsessed by something that can’t come out in any other way, then the other things – the skill and technique – will follow."(M. Hudson, “Anselm Kiefer on life, legacy and Barjac: ‘I have no style, I’m not a brand’, The Telegraph, 2014) The artist’s return to expressionistic touches, especially when considered in the wake of Minimalism’s dominance in the 1970s, encapsulates a palpable impression of anxiety about the past of his country.

    Above all, the present lot San Loretto sees the fruition of Kiefer’s oft-employed metaphor of flight and his iconographical lexicon of religious lore. Upon a visit to the Louvre, Kiefer was remarkably affected a drawing executed by Gianbattista Tiepolo, which gives visual life to the parable of Loreto. So the story goes, the impoverished structure was relocated seven centuries ago through divine intervention to its final resting place in Italy in order to ensure its survival during the Crusades ravaging the Holy Land. Fascinated by the tale’s intensity by which it has inspired religious fervor, coupled with its somber undertones of ruin, Kiefer produced a series of paintings through his own visual devices. The San Loretto series remains closely associated stylistically to the artist’s exemplars of the 1980s, reanimating previous figurations of his including German statues with wings, forests, and seascapes. Importantly, the concept of the palette became emblematic of Kiefer’s historical perspective through flight. Operating in the present lot as an autobiographical tool, the winged stone flutters through the wind, in the swirling swaths of paint, unburdened by its own mass and physical confines. Hovering above the rugged landscape, the soaring stone indicates the eclipsing power of matter over spirit, and more so of mind of matter, and the omnipresent symbol in the relentless search for divinity among destruction. The scorched tonality of San Loretto significantly suggests the war-torn wasteland of Kiefer’s youth, but the mysticism and lyricism of the winged stone climbing the clouds toward promise veils the brutality of its making. “You cannot avoid beauty in a work of art,” insists Kiefer, “You can take the most terrible subject and automatically it becomes beautiful” (J. Wullschlager, “Interview with Anselm Kiefer, ahead of his Royal Academy show”, Financial Times, 2014)


San Loretto

oil on canvas
75 x 130 in. (190.5 x 330.2 cm)
Titled "San Loretto" upper edge.

$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $1,025,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 14 May 2015 7pm