Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom

Artist: Anselm Kiefer (German, born Donaueschingen, 1945)

Date: 2000

Medium: Gouache, sand, ash and charcoal on two torn and pasted photographs

Dimensions: 50 1/4 x 30 1/4 in. (127.6 x 76.8 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Joseph H. Hazen Foundation Purchase Fund, 2001

Accession Number: 2001.557

Rights and Reproduction: © Anselm Kiefer


Similar to Kiefer's practice of recycling photographs he took in the late 1960s for work made around 1980 (as in Brünnhilde Sleeps, 1995.14.30), the artist used pictures he took on a visit in 1993 to China for more recent work that references Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution. Kiefer's large-scale photo-collage of a monumental statue of the Chinese leader in salute appears here double-exposed with another image of a vast, curved wall of bricks. The heroic statue's gesture echoes Kiefer's early photographs and drawings of himself performing the sieg Heil or Hitler salute (see Everyone Stands Under His Own Dome of Heaven, 1995.14.4). Kiefer approaches the legacy of the brutal Chinese Communist regime with the same critical eye he turned on Germany's tortured recent past earlier in his career. Mao had written in 1957 that "Letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy of promoting the progress of the arts and sciences…." Here, however, the sand and ash-encrusted flowers painted at bottom struggle to blossom under the weight of the imposing statue while the wall blocks all access to any scene beyond the picture's plane.