Anselm Kiefer - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    “An inordinate measure of inhumanity, then: tragic chaos, the dark night of History, the monster of Leviathan. What can counter the inevitability of disasters that humanity has proven it cannot escape? For a long time, nothing in Kiefer’s work pointed to any way out of this curse… Then it became more and more apparent that the artist could only escape the memory and lamentation of human history by favouring, instead, the contemplation and celebration of Nature – rocks, plants, and heavenly bodies. It may in fact be Kiefer’s move to Barjac, to a magnificent, almost pristine landscape of oak forests that was partly responsible for the emergence of this new inspiration. Which, to put it simply, in a phrase, is: the wretchedness of human history can only be escaped, briefly, thanks to the beauties and enigmas of natural history. The contradiction between these two positions is so complete that it might seem surprising an artist could go from one to the other, from one extreme to another…”
    (P. Assouline and P. Ardenne, eds., Anselm Kiefer Sternenfall Chute d’étoiles, Paris: Editions du Regard, 2007, p. 1)

    While stars are symbolic of bringing order and light into the darkness of chaos, cosmologies help to explain the origin and evolution of the universe. Kiefer says that science doesn’t lead us to any key to the world; the more we discover, the more we realise we do not know – only mythology and cosmology can try to achieve a coherent view. It is also crucial to understand that there is no one history for Kiefer, therefore time is an irrelevant concept in the quest for identity. Instead each human being makes up his own history and tries to put himself into a bigger context. Kiefer has said in an interview that “according to the Sefer Hechaloth, the book preceding the Kabbalah, there is no high and low, no east and west, no within and without, forward and backward, because in the cosmos everything is in motion. Also the present, past and future have the same orientation. Only symbols guide us in all the directions” (G. Gori and G. Serafini, eds., Anselm Kiefer: Cette obscure clarité qui tombe des étoiles, Gli Ori, 2009, p. 27). The idea that the earth and sky are inextricably linked and everything depends and influences each other is of great importance to the artist.

    However, his later work can be read in more than one way. In Sternenfall, for example, the writing Sternenfall (translated as ‘falling of the stars’) evokes Kiefer’s discourse with the micro- and macrocosms of the earth and the sky. On the other hand, however, stars and symbols such as the broken glass, the stone vault and numbers, can also allude to the horrors of the Nazi past – star-charts echo concentration camps, the digits the identification numbers of the imprisoned during the Holocaust, broken glass destruction and the stone vault imprisonment. In Kiefer’s work, symbols point to further symbols and images reveal other images, transforming his paintings into complex constructions.

Ο ◆18


Gouache and glass on collaged photograph.
118.1 × 96.5 cm (46 1/2 × 37 7/8 in).
Titled ‘Sternenfall’ in the centre.

£90,000 - 120,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £109,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

12 October 2011