Anselm Kiefer, ‘Die Ungeborenen’, Koller Auctions

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It’s the other aspect of the unborn, the desire of not wanting to be born. Cry of the prophets, the revolt of Job. It would have been better if you had never been born!
Everything happens as if it would have been preferable not to be born. The retrograde movement of creation. Theodicy, the accident of creation, God’s regret to have fathered this ungrateful being, this outlaw, who does not abide to the contract." (Anselm Kiefer, 2012)

In his series “Die Ungeborenen“ (“The Unborn”), to which Anselm Kiefer devoted himself between 2001 and 2011, the artist grappled with the question of the origin and creation of life. In order to fathom this question and render it more tangible to the spectator, Anselm Kiefer used well-known mythology as well as the iconography of Jewish and Christian faith. The state of the unborn, respectively of the just born, is regarded as an intermediate state which then induces the question of who one is and where one belongs. The artist did not confine himself to only one technique in this series, and used large-format oil paintings, which sometimes refer directly to a myth, as well as paper and collage works, such as the present one.

Signature: Titled upper left: die Ungeborenen.

Image rights: Courtesy of Koller Auktionen

Ardenne, Paul, u.a. (Hrsg.): Anselm Kiefer. Sternenfall, Paris 2007 (comparable works).

Galerie Rackey, Bad Honnef.

Dorotheum Vienna.

Private collection Northern Germany.

Private collection Southern Germany.

About Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer critically engages with myth and memory, referencing totems of German culture and collective history. “Germans want to forget [the past] and start a new thing all the time, but only by going into the past can you go into the future,” he says. Revealing the influence of his tutelage under Joseph Beuys, Kiefer's epic-scaled, dense sculptures and paintings are often exposed to elements like acid and fire, and incorporate materials such as lead, burned books, concrete, thorny branches, ashes, and clothing; famed critic and historian Simon Schama has described his work as “heavy-load maximalism.” Kiefer’s vast-ranging references have included the Black Forest, Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and Caspar David Friedrich’s Romantic landscapes, as well as Kabbalah mysticism, Cold War politics, National Socialist architecture, and Paul Celan’s seminal body of post-Holocaust poetry. “Art is difficult,” he says. “It’s not entertainment.”

German, b. 1945, Donauschingen, Germany, based in France