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Anselm Reyle (b. 1970)
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Anselm Reyle (b. 1970)

Life Enigma

Details
Anselm Reyle (b. 1970)
Life Enigma
bronze and chrome enamel varnish, and base
95½ x 57 1/8 x 47¼in. (245 x 145 x 120cm.)
Executed in 2005
Provenance
Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch, Berlin.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2006.
Exhibited
London, Saatchi Gallery, The Shape of Things to Come: New Sculpture, 2011 (illustrated in colour, p. 79).
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VAT rate of 20% is payable on hammer price and buyer's premium

Lot Essay

'The figure would look exactly the same if it had been made of plastic, but you have another relation to it when you know it is bronze. The original figurines were made of soapstone. I later learned that they are not part of any African tradition, but were influenced by Western artists, like Henry Moore. Before, European artists - Picasso and others - were influenced by African artists, and this is the other way around.' (A. Reyle quoted in Anselm Reyle: 'The New King of Kitsch?', Art Review, December 2008, p. 63).



Executed in 2005, Anselm Reyle's gleaming and monumental Life Enigma is an iconic example of the German artist's bold and slyly provocative practice. The towering abstract sculpture is characterized by sweeping, spiraling, and undulating curves and coils, which loop and twist elegantly into one another. The swooping movement of the work's organic and curvilinear forms is further heightened and exaggerated by its glossy midnight-purple finish, polished to a highly reflective, mirrored sheen. Life Enigma embodies Reyle's defining artistic projects, in both form and concept. It is no coincidence that the sculpture's rolling silhouette recalls the sculptural creations of modern masters such as Henry Moore in his Mother and Child works, Barbara Hepworth or Jean Arp: unearthing stylistically outdated, historical art forms and revitalising them with an application of contemporary materials, such as Life Enigma's chrome plating and industrial purple finish, is Reyle's defining artistic hallmark. For Reyle, revisiting now-canonized artistic styles of the 20th century provides a forum for the artist to interrogate the commodification of culture in our contemporary society as well as an opportunity to analyse the definition and boundaries of what we call 'good taste'.

Life Enigma is one of a series of Reyle's sculptures that are based on the African soapstone tchotchkes easily found at street fairs, and which are collected by his mother. Reyle scans the originals and manipulates their shape, as he says, 'The figure would look exactly the same if it had been made of plastic, but you have another relation to it when you know it is bronze. The original figurines were made of soapstone. I later learned that they are not part of any African tradition, but were influenced by Western artists, like Henry Moore. Before, European artists- Picasso and others- were influenced by African artists, and this is the other way around.' (A. Reyle quoted in 'Anselm Reyle: The New King of Kitsch?', Art Review, December 2008, p. 63). The resulting works are dramatically enlarged, and ultimately invested with new meaning and context transformed into the ironic embodiment of the "perfect modern sculpture" and shining with a hyper-futuristic industrial finish.

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