Anselm Kiefer - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Tuesday, November 10, 2015 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    The Artist
    Private Collection, London

  • Exhibited

    London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Anselm Kiefer: Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom, November 3 - December 12, 2000
    Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Anselm Kiefer: Paintings 1998 - 2001, June 15 - September 23, 2001

  • Literature

    Anselm Kiefer: Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom, exh. cat., Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, 2000
    Anselm Kiefer: Paintings 1998 - 2001, exh. cat., Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, 2001

  • Catalogue Essay

    “History is formed by the people, those who have power and those without power. Each one of us makes history. Each time period will construct its own Mao.” Anselm Kiefer, 2012

    "Let a hundred flowers bloom," Chairman Mao spoke in 1957, "let a hundred schools of thought contend." In the present lot, Anselm Kiefer envisions his personal history had it been re-written under the Chinese Cultural Revolution incited by the infamous dictator. Mao's resonant words, once poetic and inviting, transformed into a devastating demand for the intellectual highbrow to devote their brilliant findings openly to communism. Drawn from a series of photographs Kiefer snapped on a trip to China in 1993, the Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom series took shape in 2000, in dramatic, desolate landscapes that find a dramatic coalescence of Kiefer’s German past with Chinese cultural history. It cannot be of any coincidence that Mao’s arm is raised in a gesture that recalls that of a Nazi salute. Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom discloses to the present the darkness that has laid waste to the past, in the charred, burned, and ashen quality of the work. Neither incongruous nor satirical, the present lot illustrates a deeply-felt hostility towards Mao, yet a profound yearning for utopia, for a truth in the dialect of flowers.

    Kiefer’s portrayal of a statue of Mao, almost entirely shrouded in dried flowers and knotted stems, illustrates the simultaneous abundance and decay of revolutionary ideals. The eponymous exhibition at Anthony d'Offay Gallery in 2000 referenced both the legendary, budding scenes in the paintings and the frequently misquoted manifesto uttered by Mao in 1957. In the same monumental vein as all other works, the present lot’s large scale submerges us into a field of flowers; the upper plane is bisected by a horizontal path that directs us from the foreground to the horizon, so we feel we can take a step into this charred landscape. Of the somber serenity to this series, Kiefer remarked, “If I do something that depresses, it’s not because I’m depressed, but because political life and history is depressing. When Hitler was overcome, we thought we would be in a better world. But we are not. We had Rwanda and so many other massacres. This tristesse isn’t just mine.” (The artist in conversation with Jason Chow, “Anselm Kiefer: ‘This Tristesse Isn’t Just Mine’, The Wall Street Journal, 2012). The ruinous flowers that envelop the canvas ostensibly dissolve before our very eyes, intimating the potential of imminent catastrophe.


Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom

paint, sand and ash on photographic papers
72 x 35 5/8 in. (182.9 x 90.5 cm)

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $185,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head Day Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 10 November 2015 11am