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    Sale 11798

    Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Auction

    30 June 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 169

    Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)

    Sefer Hechaloth-Merkaba

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)
    Sefer Hechaloth-Merkaba
    titled 'Sefer Hechaloth MERKABA' (upper left)
    oil, acrylic, lead and charcoal on photographic paper
    36 5/8 x 29 7/8in. (93 x 76cm.)
    Executed in 2003


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    ‘In the Sefer Hechaloth... there is no worry of directions. It describes stages, metaphors, and symbols that float everywhere. Up and down were the same direction. The Hechaloth is the spiritual journey toward perfect cognition. North, south, east, and west, up and down are not issues. For me, this also relates to time. Past, present, and future are essentially the same direction. It is about finding symbols that move in all directions’ (A. Kiefer, quoted in interview with M. Auping in Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth, exh. cat., Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, 2005, p. 165).

    Executed in 2003, Anselm Kiefer’s Sefer Hechaloth – Merkaba is a powerful, near-sculptural tableau that evokes both spiritual and temporal realms. The shadowy outlines of steps receding into the unknown, marked by numbers from one to seven, are a veiled reference to the spiritual journey through seven celestial palaces as told in the Sefer Hechaloth, the ancient Hebrew text that predates the Kabbala. As the ‘Initiate’ described in the Sefer Hechaloth ascends through each heavenly realm, he simultaneously descends deeply within himself. This duality between the physical and spiritual being lies at the core of Kiefer’s practice, and has a direct impact on the way in which he creates his pictures. Although coming to prominence in the 1960s with provocative works that confronted the past of his native Germany, since the 1990s Kiefer’s work has increasingly focused on connections between Heaven and Earth. In his discussion of the Sefer Hechaloth, he draws particular attention to ‘the concept that the spiritual realm is a spiral going up and down’ (A. Kiefer, quoted in interview with M. Auping in Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth, exh. cat., Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, 2005, p. 172). Blending this ancient symbolism with reference to the traumatic ideological history of the twentieth century, in the present work Kiefer reinterprets the Merkaba – the divine chariot that, in Hebrew legend, transported ascendants to a higher spiritual plane – as a form resembling lead aircraft carrier. Evocative of both the Second World War, this heavy vehicle is capable of both flight and descent, as well as of the ability to navigate and carry heavy loads across the ocean of life.

    Kiefer fervently believes in the artist’s ability to invest materials with meaning and, in doing so, to allow them to transcend their physical states. The deeply textured surfaces of his works correspond directly to this concept, employing oil paint, acrylic and emulsion, as well as photography and text as in the present work. In particular, Kiefer is fascinated by the symbolic potency of lead, explaining ‘Lead comes from the depths of the earth, from which it is extracted and a shaman then places a chunk of it on a plinth between heaven and earth, between the spheres of the Nigredo and the spirituality of the Albedo’ (A. Kiefer, quoted in M. Prodger, ‘Inside Anselm Kiefer’s astonishing 200-acre art studio’, The Guardian, 12 September 2014). It is this paradoxical fusion of earthbound, raw materials with motifs of spiritual ascent which lends the present work its visual and symbolic power. As Kiefer explains, ‘The Hechaloth is the spiritual journey toward perfect cognition. North, south, east, and west, up and down are not issues … Past, present, and future are essentially the same direction. It is about finding symbols that move in all directions’ (A. Kiefer, quoted in interview with M. Auping in Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth, exh. cat., Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, 2005, p. 165).

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


    Provenance

    Galleria Torbandena, Trieste.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.


    Exhibited

    Trieste, Galleria Torbandena, Barcelò / Basquiat / Kiefer / Richter, 2004.