This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.
"A leader like Mao shows how impossible it is to write history"
(Kiefer quoted in Thomas McEvilley 'Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom', Anselm Kiefer: Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom, exh. cat., London 2000, p. 20).
Laßt Tausend Blumen blühen! (Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom!) is one of a series of paintings on the same theme that Anselm Kiefer made at the turn of the millennium in 2000. Like this precise period pivoting between one millennium and the next, the works in this series are also pivotal works that look both back at the path and origins of Kiefer's art and forward to his, then, most recent work exploring the integral relationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm. This inherent duality is expressed very simply in the presentation of the lone figure of Chairman Mao saluting commanding a vast field of flowers. In this it echoes the very first of Kiefer's works Occupations, in which the artist had re-enacted the Nazi salute at various locations throughout Europe, reinvoking and reinvestigating a past history that he, born in 1945, had never known, but which he had inherited. Combining the same heroic romanticism in the Caspar David Friedrich-like juxtaposition of the lone hero/individual dictator set against the vast sublime expanse of the world, Laßt tausend Blumen blühen is also, ultimately, like the Occupations, an image of futility - a picture of a King Canute attempting to hold back the waves.
'Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom' is a misquote of Chairman Mao's famous 1958 statement 'Let a hundred flowers bloom, let one hundred schools of thought contend' which he first made in 1958 to encourage citizens of China to speak out in criticism and suggest reform and improvement to his regime. When some of these 'flowers' did begin to 'bloom' Mao had them destroyed. Some observers have argued that Mao intended all along to use this as a strategy to root out those who opposed him, others that he simply could not cope with the criticism when it was voiced. In this respect, each interpretation echoes Kiefer's deliberately ambivalent comment that 'a leader like Mao shows how impossible it is to write history'. For, while it is evidently true that it is impossible to write history under a leader like Mao, it is also the case, as Kiefer's paintings on the subject demonstrate, that, it is impossible for individual, even one as all-powerful as Mao, to write/dictate history. Shown surrounded by a seemingly infinite field of flowers sprouting from the land, (flowers are often associated with the innumerable stars of the cosmos in Kiefer's work) the iconic, almost cardboard-cut-out figure of Mao with his arm-raised standing in the middle-distance, seems both a farewell to the past century and a hail to the new.