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Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)
Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)


Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)
fabric, plaster, paint, pour concrete, red clay, metal and wood
59 7/8 x 87 3/8 x 55 7/8in. (152 x 222 x 142cm.)
Executed in 1999
Yvon Lambert, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2005 (on long-term loan to Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht).
Deurle, Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Collectie Jeanne & Charles Vandenhove, 2013, p. 147 (installation view illustrated in colour, pp. 146-147).
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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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Lot Essay

Katarina is one of two works by Anselm Kiefer being offered for sale in this auction in order to benefit the Vandenhove Centre for Architecture and Art at the University of Ghent. Created in 1999, it was acquired from the Yvon Lambert Gallery in Paris by the renowned Belgian architect Charles Vandenhove. The work was subsequently put on exhibition for many years in the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht. In 2012, the Vandenhoves agreed to donate their art collection to the University of Ghent, as well as the means to build a pavilion to house a study centre. Kiefer’s Katarina and Le Dormeur du val (2010) were part of this major gift, which also included further works by Kiefer, and works by other artists such as Pierre Soulages, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Simon Hantaï, Pierre Alechinsky, and Barry Flanagan. Katarina and Le Dormeur du val are now being offered for sale by the King Baudouin Foundation on behalf of the university to aid the functioning of its Vandenhove Centre, an interfaculty study centre in which the department of Architecture & Urban Planning and the department of Art, Music and Theatre Studies work together for education and research in the field of architecture and the arts.

Katarina is one of the first of a major and ongoing series of works dedicated to women in history and known collectively as Die Frauen der Antike (The Women of Antiquity) that Kiefer initiated in 1999. As is demonstrated by this sculpture, this series originally took the form of a sequence of headless mannequins, made using crinoline gowns soaked in plaster and reinforced with steel. All these haunting female figures are headless because, as Kiefer explained at an exhibition devoted solely to this theme in his work held at the Villa Medici in Rome in 2005, the history of women ‘from the last three millennia (since there was a matriarchy) has been made known only through men ... The real rulers of the world throughout the ages were women ...but [as with] poetesses such as Sappho or lesser known ones like Telesilla for example, we are now aware of [them] only through the citations of male poets who are better known’ (A. Kiefer in conversation at the exhibition Die Frauen, Villa Medici, Rome 2005, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh5MzxgKn3c).

The figure of Katarina is representative of the Fourth Century Christian scholar and martyr, Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Like many in Kiefer’s pantheon of overlooked women from antiquity, Catherine was a rebellious intellectual who challenged an unjust authority and ultimately paid for it with her life. Her story is often conflated in myth with that of another of Kiefer’s historic heroines, Hypatia. The figure of Hypatia is often represented by Kiefer as a similarly headless figure crowned with a glass tetrahedron of the type used in Albrecht Dürer’s Melancholia. Unlike some of Kiefer’s headless, nearly-forgotten heroines from the past, Catherine was in fact martyred by beheading. In the present sculpture, however, Kiefer has crowned the figure of Katarina with a rack of terracotta tiles, running across her outstretched arms like a broken train-track – likely a reference to the saint’s original sentence of death by a spiked wheel (sometimes called a Catherine wheel), which miraculously shattered at her touch. In most cases, the motifs with which Kiefer crowns his headless women are representative in some way of the particular branch of history or culture to which these women contributed but which, over the passage of time, has itself, come to obliterate their memory.

Throughout the 1990s, Kiefer traveled widely visiting countries such as Egypt, Israel, Yemen, Brazil, Central America and India. Drawn especially to places of antiquity, throughout this period his art became dominated by vast painterly depictions of ancient monuments and ruins that ranged from the pyramids of Egypt and Central America, to primitive brickworks, mastabas, minarets and tower-houses. In both the media, style and manner by which Kiefer depicted these structures he evoked a pervasive sense of the annihilating dust of history and the obliterating triumph of time over all such cultural manifestations of individual artistic aspiration. His Frauen der Antik form an important but more individually-focused part of this increasingly expansive tendency in his work during this period.

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