Anselm Kiefer - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Sunday, November 8, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    White Cube, London
    Private Collection, Berlin
    Private Collection
    Sotheby's, London, Contemporary Art Evening Auction, February 15, 2012, lot 55
    Private Collection, Hamburg (acquired at the above sale)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I think a great deal about religion because science provides no answers.” Anselm Kiefer, 1987

    Anselm Kiefer draws much of his inspiration from German culture and the idea of Vergangenheitsbewältigung ("coming to terms with the past") in the wake of World War II. Born in 1945, the same year the war ended, Kiefer grew up witnessing his homeland’s rebuilding in the fallout of unspeakable horror. His ensuing interest in mysticism, symbolism, mythology and religion came very early in his journey as an artist, finding mentorship under Joseph Beuys and even living for three weeks with Dominican monks to take part in their daily rituals. It is no wonder that he is considered to be one of the most important and enduring artists of the past century as his ability to confront major themes of faith, history and metaphysics come about effortlessly in his work.

    Anselm Kiefer’s Die Ordnung der Engel, (Hierarchy of Angels) leads the viewer on a spiritual journey. The title refers to writings by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, dating back to circa 650—c. 725 C.E. In his texts he refers to a “celestial hierarchy” that classifies angels into ‘Orders’ and ‘Choirs’ who exist between heaven and earth dutifully protecting God. Interestingly, this text is found in both early Jewish and Christian tradition. The angelic forms in the present work at first appear to be fleeing the scorched earth in the wake of a catastrophic event. Yet the two forms on the left are headed downwards, either tumbling or willfully returning to the surface below. One is unsure if the devastated celestial orb is referring to a biblical event such as man’s fall to original sin or a war-torn battlefield. Despite the ominous torn landscape, the composition as a whole is undeniably beautiful. The presence of these "angels" provides the viewer with a sense of hope and liberation, suggesting that renewal following tragedy is always possible.

    Kiefer interweaves space and time in his imagery. Past, present, and future is simultaneously working together, moving in the same direction and in all directions at once. Indeed these ideas are relevant to the destruction seen across Europe following World War II, where a single building or place could be occupied by multiple histories and events. Kiefer illustrates this idea of multiple histories through his use of mixed media, building on the surface of his works using thick impasto and materials such as iron and ash, and, as seen in the case of the present work, modern dresses. Die Ordnung der Engel, straddles the mediums of painting, sculpture and an operatic stage set due to its highly-textured, worked surface and large scale. Here Kiefer is the artist as alchemist – transforming physical material into the ethereal. As Kiefer himself has expressed, “Alchemy is not to make gold, the real alchemist is not interested in material things but in transubstantiation, in transforming the spirit. It’s a spiritual thing more than a material thing. An alchemist puts the phenomena of the world in another context.” (Anselm Kiefer in an interview with Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times, September 19, 2014)


Die Ordnung der Engel

paint, clay, ash, chalk, iron, cotton and linen dresses on panel
112 1/4 x 55 1/4 in. (285.1 x 140.3 cm)
Titled "die Ordnung der Engel" along the upper edge.

$800,000 - 1,200,000 

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 8 November 2015 7pm