Anselm Kiefer - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Saturday, May 7, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Salzburg, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Alkahest, July 28 - September 24, 2011, pp. 40-44 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Executed in 2011, Der Wolken heitere Stimmung is an outstanding example of Anselm Kiefer’s unyielding interrogation of contemporary experience, articulated through a visual vocabulary predicated upon signifiers of disruption and transition. Der Wolken heitere Stimmung, 2011 depicts an imposing scene of an eroded, burnt landscape contrasted with a lighter, mottled, variegated sky, achieved through a technique of erasure or, more importantly, dilution. The sky seems to realize itself through the coalescence of dry puddles of cream, slate and turquoise, quietly imbuing the canvas with a curious, eerie evanescence. Such a sky suggests a moment passed; it teems with the memories of conflicts of old.

    Occupying the left central vertical axis of the composition is an organic, chimney-like form made of lead that the artist has fixed on to the canvas, and which appears to spew ominous plumes of black smog across the pictorial plane. The resulting image carries with it a series of poignant historical, biblical, and mythical references. That it is made of lead further illustrates Kiefer’s interest in incorporating materials that illustrate and signify both the matter and meaning of alchemy. Landscape morphs from embattled ground to pure abstraction. Surface changes from painting to sculpture. The viewer is constantly moving – physically, emotionally and psychologically – when enveloped in the presence of this expansive work. Kiefer’s artistic charge never diminishes, propelling the viewer down a myriad of different tributaries of meaning.

    This transformative energy is reflected in Kiefer’s technique: laying canvases on the ground and, literally, diluting their surface by pouring water on to them—thinning his images while still managing to record the vestiges of their previous production. However, this process also speaks to the dynamic of change - and not always for the good - which Kiefer is inspired to communicate through narratives and symbolism provided by mythology, poetry, philosophy and biblical texts. Indeed the notion of transformation or “alchemy” is integral to Der Wolken heitere Stimmung and to Kiefer’s broader practice. The present work was exhibited in the artist’s 2011 Alkahest exhibition where Kiefer explained, "The term Alkahest signifies that there is a solution which can dilute any substance. This idea comes from the alchemists. Dilution is of course something very important for me. I often lay pictures on the floor and pour water over them, or pour on water that has paint dissolved in it. [...] Water has to do with erosion. Whole mountains, and sediments that have accumulated over millions of years, are carried down to the sea by water. Water contributes to the cycle. Rock that looks as though it will last forever is dissolved, crushed to sand and mud." (Anselm Kiefer, 2009)

    The present work is best explained by Kiefer’s interest in the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin. His poems often outline the passage of the divine on to mortal clouds that hide the immortal heavens; to mankind, living between Heaven and Earth, and then, finally, on to Earth itself. This structure illustrates man’s desire to attain the spiritual through a better understanding of the physical.

Property from an Important Private European Collection


Der Wolken heitere Stimmung

oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac and lead on canvas, diptych
150 3/8 x 150 3/8 x 2 3/8 in. (382 x 382 x 6 cm)

$700,000 - 1,000,000 

Sold for $797,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 8 May 2016