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Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)
Property from the Collection of Melva Bucksbaum
Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)

Der Universalien-Streit

Details
Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)
Der Universalien-Streit
titled 'Der Universalien-Streit' (upper edge)
chalk, charcoal, paint, lacquer, photograph and clay on layered paperboard mounted on panel
39 3/8 x 29 ½ in. (100 x 74.9 cm.)
Executed in 2004.
Provenance
Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2004

Brought to you by

Alex Berggruen
Alex Berggruen

Lot Essay

Anselm Kiefer’s Der Universalien-Streit is a lyrical exploration of an age-old philosophical problem, resounding with an epic grandeur that the artist has made his own. Taking a photograph of two of his signature towers, Kiefer surrounds them in a heavy wash of speckled white paint, as though a snowstorm or avalanche is consuming his constructions. Etched into the expanse of white are the words ‘Nominalisten’ and ‘Realisten’–‘nominalists’ and ‘realists’–representing the two positions that have dominated the ‘Universalien-Streit’, or ‘problem of universals’, since the Ancient Greeks. While realists believe that abstract universal properties (for example, being small, red, solid distant etcetera) exist, separate to particular things, nominalists hold that there are no such entities–merely names that describe similarities between objects. Kiefer’s work seems to flicker between impressive physicality and ethereal elusiveness: the imposing physical materiality of his towers is flattened into the two-dimensionality of the photography, and yet over this representation visceral swathes of paint are applied, affording the work a textured, material presence that emerges out of the frame.

Executed in 2004, this work dates from the very beginning of Kiefer’s use of the tower as an image in his work: a teetering edifice of corrugated grey panels balancing precariously on one another, this image has become an iconic, almost archetypal motif in Kiefer’s practice. After unveiling his first gigantic towers at an installation in Milan in 2004, Kiefer continued to install them at a number of locations the world, though most impressively of all, at his vast, otherworldly estate in Barjac, France, where, despite the artist having left the site in 2014, immense constructions remain today in eerie isolation, slowly being reclaimed by nature.

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