Prominent Works by Anselm Kiefer

This season’s spectacular offers, which for the first time are being presented in two catalogues, are headed by two important works by Anselm Kiefer: “Geheimnis der Farne”, estimated at 450 – 550,000 and the sculpture “Sappho” at 350 – 400,000. Günther Uecker, with whom Lempertz have achieved numerous records in the past, is represented by four nail paintings (up to 240,000). Also on offer is a canvas by Konrad Klapheck for 120 – 150,000, two works by Wilhelm Nay for 120 – 150,000 and 120 – 160,000. A painting by Pierre Soulages is being offered for an estimate of 120 – 150,000. A further work by Karin Kneffels is estimated at 80 – 120,000 and two drawings by Cy Twombly for 90 – 120,000. Andreas Gursky’s spectacular image of the Maid of the Mist ferry at the foot of the Niagara Falls is among the highlights of the photography section (see the photography press release for more information).

Anselm Kiefer’s work “Geheimnis der Farne” (the secret of the ferns) references Paul Celan’s eponymous 1964 poem, which is one of the main sources of inspiration in Kiefer’s art. His pieces are emotionally charged memorial works, revealing the artist’s intellectual dialogue with both his personal and national history, Jewish mysticism, alchemical traditions and classical mythology (cf. lot 523). Due to their monumental and meaningful character, Kiefer’s works are often characterised by a mysterious and sublime quality. In the present work, the artist has layered various rustic materials to create the appearance of an enigmatic swamp landscape with an overgrown rocky outcrop in the foreground. Along the lower edge of the work, a chaotic pile of barbed wire looms out from a river. In his typical manner, the artist has provided us with a clue to deciphering this cryptic image in the form of two inscriptions in the upper left of the work “für Paul Celan” and “Geheimnis der Farne” (lot 522, 450 – 500,000).

Unlike any other contemporary artist, Anselm Kiefer analyses his work with reference to the history, knowledge, culture and identity of human beings. Women appear repeatedly in his works, with other famous examples being 'Margarethe' and 'Sulamith' from Paul Celan's story 'Die Todesfuge', and the mythological demon 'Lilith'. In Kiefer's work, Sappho appears as a secretive apparition from another time, whose symbolic history and inherent higher wisdom are made vivid. Even though the figure carries seven lead books on her shoulders, Kiefer still manages to give this heavy weight an impression of ethereal lightness. As in the tradition of classical western iconography, Kiefer is using these books as reference to Sappho's role as a generator of literature and knowledge (lot 523, 350 – 400,000).

The significant interest in the works of the ZERO group is reflected in numerous international exhibitions, such as the recent Piene retrospective in Berlin, and the current ZERO exhibition in the Guggenheim Museum in New York. At Lempertz, works by the ZERO artists regularly achieve top results. Alongside interesting canvasses by Otto Piene and objects by Heinz Mack, Günther Uecker is also represented with several of his fascinating nail paintings. “Abgesunkenes Quadrat”, an installation measuring 300 x 192 x 110 cm is the largest Uecker work on offer this season. Considering Abgesunkenes Quadrat, the persistent pursuit of his artistic concept is obvious. Uecker here decidedly stresses the three dimensionality of the impressive installation, takes up the classic square panel painting, and at the same time declares it obsolescent: where once was the picture carrier, there now is an empty space on the wall element; the picture carrier itself has subsided and is lying in fragments on the floor. The nails have emancipated themselves from the picture carrier and retrace its contours on the wall. The particular significance of this work is reflected in its comprehensive exhibition and publication history (lot 525, 180 – 240,000). A further dynamic work using nails “Feld”, made in 2000, is estimated at 180 – 220,000 (lot 526), and “Kreisformation”, made 25 years earlier, at 80 – 120,000 (lot 524).

Otto Piene is represented by seven works, including five canvasses made using acrylics and fire, made between 1983 and 2007 and estimated from 20,000 – 40,000 (lots 528, 529, 531, 533, 534). The highlight of the three works by Heinz Mack on offer this autumn is a large aluminium rotor relief disc made in 1967 (lot 530, 20 – 25,000). 

Lempertz will also be offering two works by Ernst Wilhelm Nay – an early piece from 1944 and a double sided canvas painted nine years later. Elisabeth Nay-Scheibler describes the elder piece “Königin auf dem Thron” (The Enthroned Queen) thus: “The white strokes and rows of dots which suggest the spines of both figures in 'Königin auf dem Thron' (cat. no. 328), make the skeletal form of the body visible. In contrast to this Memento mori, the harmonically warm colour scheme with the dominant use of yellow and its combination with light red lifts the pictures to a bright, spirited tonal harmony. Nay softens the heat of these fire colours with a spectrum of brown and green tones” (lot 513, 120 – 150,000).

Nine years later, he painted the double-sided work “In Blockformen” (lot 514), revealing his complete renunciation of all representational forms. It is dominated by large coloured areas of brown and orange tones, which are animated by black zigzag lines and contrasting blue and blue-grey colour forms, producing a powerfully dynamic composition. The composition on the front however shows a somewhat quieter character with soft, rounded forms. The complete lack of lineal structure here hints already at the Scheibenbilder which Nay worked on from 1955 (lot 514, 120 – 160,000).

Konrad Klapheck is one of the most brilliant and unique representatives of German post-war art. Telephones play an important role in his work, as for the artist they symbolise a means of communication. The present work “Der Kuss” (the Kiss), made in 1966, emphasises the element of human physical eroticism. The work was exhibited in a 1969 solo exhibition of Klapheck's works in the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York, and is featured prominently in the exhibition catalogue (lot 536, 120 – 150,000).

Pierre Soulages has dedicated himself to abstract painting since the beginning of his career in the 1940s, and his works mainly explore the depiction of light on canvas. He uses broad and narrow lines, arranged in vertical, horizontal and diagonal patterns before a pale background allowing the light to shine through. This artistic concept is clearly illustrated in lot 507 (120 – 150,000).

Lots 520 and 521, both estimated at 90 – 120,000, comprise of two oil, gouache and pencil sketches made by Cy Twombly in 1966. With the advancements of Abstract Expressionism, Cy Twombly created one of the most important and most fascinating artist's oeuvre of the 20th/21st century. In his symbolically charged works, he combines written clichés as well as cypher-like and painterly elements - mainly alluding to antique myths and literature. One of the other top lots in this autumn's auction is Miquel Barcelós' 2009 mixed media piece “Tomates au cadre bleu“ (lot 549, 150,000). In “Pflaumen (F.XXIV)“ from 1966, Karin Kneffel combines two different perspectives: The branches, leaves and fruit in the foreground provide a view onto onto a distant, panoramic landscape. The dramatic contrast between the fore and back grounds is deliberately unsettling to the viewer's vision (lot 552, 80 – 120,000).

Gotthard Graubner is represented by an untitled pillow object from 1983, estimated at 50 – 70,000 (lot 527). Georges Mathieu is featured with „Redorte“, a 1965 canvas from the Schmela collection (lot 506, 60 – 80,000). We will also be offering two works by Marvan, a canvas depicting a head estimated at 80 – 90,000 and a further work for 50 – 60,000, under lots 517 and 518. Andy Warhol is represented by his colour screen print “Beethoven“ from 1987 (lot 544, 40 – 45,000), Gerhard Richter with a digital colour inkjet print from 2011 (lot 546, 50,000), Fritz Winter with three canvasses from the 1960s (up to 45,000), Wilhelm Mundt with „Trashstone“, a 265 cm long sculpture from 1992 (lot 538, 30 – 40,000), George Rickey with a small sculpture for 25 – 30,000 (lot 519), Balkenhol, Lüpertz and Immendorff are also represented with various paintings and sculptures (up to 40,000).  

As always, Lempertz will also be offering many prominent works by Joseph Beuys, including  several drawings and an early work on paper from 1958 (up to 40,000), as well as fascinating multiples such as “Capri-Batterie“. In the 1981 series “Bronzebunker“, comprising 1 pencil drawing and 17 unique offset lithographs, Beuys critically examined the controversial building of the government bunker in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler (lot 504, 50 – 60,000).