James Cohan Gallery, Shanghai Acquired from the above by the current owner in 2009
China, Shanghai, James Cohan Gallery, Matters of Faith: Anselm Kiefer, Nam June Paik, Bill Viola, Xu Zhen, 27 March - 30 May, 2009
One of the most acclaimed European post-war artists, the German born Anselm Kiefer is immediately recognizable for his use of various materials such as concrete, lead, wood, flowers, and seeds on a large scale. He is also known for his interest in history, mythology, philosophy, literature and religion. Through the use of perishable elements, the artist delivers his thoughts on decay and regeneration, symbols for death and resurrection.
The present work, Domenica delle Palme is maybe one of the finest works to deliver this message. It shows us a large real palm used as a collage on a painting made of clay. The title of the work and the use of the palm refers to the Christian Holy Sunday when Christ enters Jerusalem and is acclaimed by his people with palms. This episode marks the beginning of the Holy Week in which the Death and Resurrection of Christ take place. The use of the palm by Christ's disciples has always been seen as a sign announcing the Resurrection. The palm is known as an immortal tree because it never actually perishes, but constantly regenerates: a new sheath of branches blossoms from the side of a fallen limb.
From the early ages of Christianity, the palm has been used as a symbol of the Christ's victory's over death. This theme is recurrent in Kiefer's work and reaches its peak with the large scale installation: Palm Sunday, 2006. It is composed of a palm tree and 40 works depicting palms (Fig.1)
Apart from the symbolic use of materials, extensive titles usually inserted in childish writing are an important part of his work. In Domenica delle Palme, these words actually give rise to an overlaying and intertwining of formal hints and associations relating to the content. Combined with the viewer's inner historical recollection, it creates an emotional effect of fragility and strength, despair and joy all at the same time.
Compared with other works on the same subject, the most striking element of the present work is the movement and the energy Kiefer instilled into it. The wind seems to blow in the composition while the white layers of paint applied to the branch, by contrast with the mud tone of the background; act as if a violent light was projected onto the work. Reminding of the effect of Le Caravage, it reinforces the vision of this palm standing alone, but firm in this dark and gloomy environment, just as Christ did on the eve of his Passion.
The theme of regeneration and the use of familiar elements are also to be found in Joseph Beuys' works and projects (such as the 7000 oaks project or the use of fat and carpet felt). The influence of Beuys is important on Kiefer as he met him in 1970 when he moved to Dusseldorf to enroll in his class. It is to be noted that Beuys also created a work using a palm called Domenica delle Palme in 1981 (Fig 2).
Although very symbolic and full of references, the present work also conveys a poetical and almost magical state of grace. It might be one of the most elegant, yet powerful examples of one of the most instantly recognizable themes from the artist.
The work is in overall good condition. There are signs of slight wear around the edges, but this does not distract from the artist's intention. The work has been restored, notably the top middle part of the palm, and the stalk has been repainted. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."