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  • Provenance

    Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Yvon Lambert, Nachtschattengewachse, 14 September – 29 October, 1991; Barcelona, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Holdings for a Collection I, 30 November 1995 – 9 June, 1996 (on loan from 1992 - 2006) ; Barcelona, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Discovering the Collection, 24 October 1997 – 8 March, 1998 (on loan from 1992 - 2006)

  • Literature

    Exhibition catalogue, Galerie Yvon Lambert, Naschtschattemgewachse, Paris, 1991, n.p. (illustrated); Andrea Lauterwein, Anselm Kiefer and Paul Celan; Myth, Mourning and Memory, London, 2007, p.51

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Kiefer’s art is as ambitious as it is magnificently grandiose, uncomfortable and brooding. His work is as deeply troubling as it is impressive-and that is as it should be.”(A. Searle, ‘All at Sea’ in The Guardian, 5 July, 2005).
    “Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken sie abendswir trinken sie mittags und morgens wir trinken sie nachts wir trinken und trinken wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lüften da liegt man nicht eng.” (Paul Celan –The Death Fugue, 1944).
    Literally translating into The Grave in the Air the part installation / painting reflects the horrors lived by concentration camp prisoners during the Nazi regime in Germany. A German speaking Jew from the Bukovina region (now Romania), Paul Celan lost both his parents to the genocide in Germany and went on to become a prolific poet from the 20th century.The present lot is titled after a phrase in Celan’s poem,The Death Fugue, which translates to: “...we shovel a grave in the air there you won’t lie too cramped.”
    In Kiefer’s 1991 interpretation of Celan’s poem, the installation includes a lead rocket, the modern incarnation of the Stuka bomber and of man’s technical genius, rising above a pile of broken picture frames; this is a reference to iconoclastic controversies throughout history and, by extension, to the problem of representing the Holocaust. With this image of lift-off and subsequent disappearance, Kiefer seems to be challenging aviation, which allows continuance of the notion of heroic combat – an abstraction that is detached from the anonymous masses being destroyed down below, on the ground. (A. Lauterwein, Anselm Kiefer and Paul Celan; Myth, Mourning and Memory, London, 2007, p. 51).
    Through Celan’s linguistic innovations and Kiefer’s intense explorations of past and present, the artist’s creation becomes both an expression of horror, an act of commemoration and a dedicated remembrance here polished through an aesthetic which reminds us of burnt memories in decadent picture frames traced to a rusted rocket that reminisce the memory of those once beloved and who now hold their graves in the air.


Das Grab in den Lüften (A Tomb in the Sky)

Mixed media installation comprised of glass, stone, earth, lead and two iron plates.
Iron Rocket: 662 x 130 x 52 cm. (260 5/8 x 51 1/8 x 20 1/8 in). Iron plates, each: 235 x 685 cm. (92 1/2 x 269 3/4 in).

£700,000 - 900,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

18 Oct 2008, 7pm