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


Kiefer used pictures he took on a visit to China in 1993 for a series of works that reference Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution. Kiefer's large-scale photo-collage of a monumental statue of the Chinese leader saluting appears 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, the Nazi salute. Kiefer approaches the legacy of the brutal Chinese Communist regime with the same critical eye he turned on Germany's tortured recent past. In 1957 Mao wrote: "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 at the bottom struggle to blossom under the weight of the imposing statue while the wall blocks all access beyond the picture plane.