Lot 105
  • 105

ANSELM KIEFER | Die Ungeborenen

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Anselm Kiefer
  • Die Ungeborenen
  • ash, sand, charcoal and fabric on black and white photograph
  • sheet: 128.9 by 179.7 cm. 50 3/4 by 70 3/4 in.
  • Executed in 1998.


Gagosian Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1999


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate although there are fewer magenta undertones in the original. Condition: This work is in very good and original condition. The sheet is stapled to the backing board of the artist’s frame and undulates. All collaged elements are stable. There are artist’s pinholes to all four edges which are deckled and irregularly cut. There is evidence of handling, rub marks, nicks and small losses in places to the wooden frame.
"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.

Catalogue Note

Die Ungeborenen, with its reference to the myths and legends at the origins of humanity, is exemplary of Anselm Kiefer’s work. The artist often explores the hybrid sphere of not belonging, dealing both with questions of birth on a human scale and the notion of the beginnings of humanity. The artist plays with techniques and materials in order to treat the different themes linked with philosophy, theology and history that he has explored over the past forty years. Attesting to the importance of the present work, other works from the Die Ungeborenen series can be found in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York and Yale University Art Gallery. The white dresses, a re-occurring subject in Kiefer’s oeuvre since the late 1960s, refer to the artist’s longstanding interest in the Jewish figure Lilith. She is described in the Bible as the first woman who fled from Adam after God refused her plea for equality. She placed herself in exile on the shores of the Red Sea, claiming that she had been ordered by God to kill new born babies and await her destiny. Her own offspring were said to be demons, represented in Kiefer’s work by the ashen white nightgowns devoid of human presence. They, like Lilith herself, are remnants of something that was once alive: signifiers of catastrophe and devastation. For Kiefer, the destructed materials are equally symbols of rebirth, thus placing creation at the very heart of destruction.

Kiefer approaches the subject of the unborn with unbounded curiosity, and, exploring an emotive discourse of the title Die Ungeborenen Kiefer describes the term as “the desire of not wanting to be born” (Anselm Kiefer cited in: Exh. Cat., Paris, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Anselm Kiefer: Die Ungeborenen Press Release, 2012, online). Expanding on this premise Kiefer assumes the possibility of divine creation by eschewing Biblical stories with typical sobriety: “Cry of the prophets, the revolt of Job. It would have been better if you had never been 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” (Ibid.). Although an atheist, Kiefer is nevertheless fascinated by mankind’s dependence on divine solutions and speculating God’s existence allows Kiefer dramatic recourse to explore and critique the expanded spirituality of mankind. Through Kiefer’s dogmatic conceptualisation, the title Die Ungeborenen therefore instils the painting not only with the weight of mortality and emptiness, but also the boundless possibilities, both good and bad, offered up by religion.

Die Ungeborenen is a masterful survey of many of Kiefer’s most important, long-serving, and delicate themes. The delicate dresses out before the viewer as the resplendent debris of the artist’s history, impregnated with the sublime and the promise of new beginnings.