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Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)

Die Ordnung der Engel (The Hierarchy of The Angels)

Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)
Die Ordnung der Engel (The Hierarchy of The Angels)
titled 'Die Ordnung der Engel' (along the upper edge)
paint, clay, ash, chalk, iron, cotton and linen dresses on panel
112 3/8 x 55 3/8in, (285 x 140cm.)
Executed in 2007
White Cube.
Private Collection, London.
Private Collection.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 15 February 2012, lot 55.
Private Collection, Germany.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
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.
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Paola Saracino Fendi
Paola Saracino Fendi

Lot Essay

‘ I think a great deal about religion because science provides no answers.’
– Anselm Kiefer

With its imposing, near-sculptural presence and dramatic centrifugal composition, Die Ordnung der Engel (The Hierarchy of the Angels) (2007) is a masterful example of Anselm Kiefer’s ongoing artistic dialogue with the traumas of history and the mysteries of religion. Upon a dark, richly textural ground, nine linen smocks rise and fall in whirling vertical formation. They are weathered and spattered with earthy paint, and numbered 1 through 9 as if in a diagram or map. The background’s black and russet hues evoke burning and rust as much as stormy sky. At the foot of the canvas is a hemisphere of shellac and emulsion, cracked and pitted like dried mud. At the top, ‘Die Ordnung der Engel’ is chalked in Kiefer’s distinctive cursive script. This title is taken from the description of Dionysius the Aeropagite, the first-century Greek convert to Christianity, of the orders of celestial hierarchy. There are nine orders: angels, archangels, principalities, powers, virtues, dominions, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim, in ascending order of closeness to God. Arranging his work’s seraphic smocks in a circle of ascent and descent, Kiefer invokes his belief in the cyclical nature of history. The ‘angels’ appear to be both rising from and returning to the scorched earth below. Fascinated by ancient mythology, symbolism and spiritual belief systems, Kiefer is keenly alive to the power of such visual metaphors. His immense, multimedia compositions explore divine and earthly realms in an act of Vergangenheitsbewältigung (‘coming to terms with the past’) – the reckoning with history that has long preoccupied artists and thinkers in postwar German culture. Conjuring darkness and tragedy, in Die Ordnung der Engel Kiefer also offers the beauty of hope, as heavenly bodies flutter to the sky in a timeless vision of cataclysm, redemption and renewal.
The present work takes its place within the larger series of the same name initiated in 1983: examples are held in the Art Institute of Chicago and the Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis. More broadly, however, it relates to the artist’s longstanding interrogation of history, faith and metaphysics as vehicles for confronting contemporary reality. Kiefer was born at the close of the Second World War, and witnessed his country’s attempts to rebuild itself in the wake of trauma and conflict. Seeking a means of engaging with these loaded narratives, his art adopted a near-alchemical approach to materials and story-telling, weaving together motifs drawn from ancient legends and a wide variety of religious texts. ‘Past, present, and future are essentially the same direction’, he would later explain. ‘It is about finding symbols that move in all directions’ (A. Kiefer in conversation with M. Auping, Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth, exh. cat., Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, 2005, p. 165). As a young man, he spent time living with Dominican monks, participating in their daily rituals before returning to Germany where he studied with Joseph Beuys: ‘they were both dealing with the ghosts of history’, recalls fellow student Walter Dahn (W. Dahn, quoted in P. Taylor, ‘Painter of the Apocalypse’, The New York Times, 16 October 1988, https:// [accessed 1 June 2018]). In the present work, the esoteric concept of celestial hierarchy provides a means of tapping into universal themes: downfall, rebirth and the interminable cycle of existence.

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