Dan Flavin - Contemporary Art and Design Evening Sale New York Tuesday, March 3, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    London, Waddington Galleries, Dan Flavin, Untitled (for Lucie Rie, Master potter) 1990 themes and variations, February 28 - March 24, 1990
    New York, John Good Gallery, Dan Flavin, October 7 - November 5, 1994 (another example exhibited)
    Munich, Galerie Tanit, U.S. Classics, July 2 - September 4, 1999 (another example exhibited)
    Munich, Galerie MaxWeberSixFriedrich, P79, November 5 - December 5, 2014

  • Literature

    Dan Flavin, Untitled (for Lucie Rie, Master potter) 1990 themes and variations, exh. cat., Waddington Galleries, London, p. 10-11, no. 4 (illustrated)
    M. Govan and T. Bell, eds., Dan Flavin: The Complete Lights, 1961-1996, New York: Dia Art Foundation in association with Yale University Press, 2004, no. 532, p. 373 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I can take the ordinary lamp out of use and into a magic that touches ancient mysteries.”
    Dan Flavin, 1962

    Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light pieces made their debut to the public in 1964, breaking free from the gestural and impassioned world of abstract expressionism and embarking on a new artistic exploration into minimalism. While employed as a security guard at the American Museum of Natural in New York, Flavin observed first hand the power of strategically placed electric lighting utilized to guide viewers through a darkened room. He began to contemplate the idea of electrical lighting as his defining artistic medium and chose common industrial florescent tubing knowing “that the actual space of a room could be broken down and played with by planting illusions of real light (electric light) at crucial junctures in the room's composition. A piece of wall can be visually disintegrated from the whole.'”(Dan Flavin, 1965 in J. Brox, Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light, London 2010)

    The present lot continues Flavin’s tradition of creating works dedicated to his friends, colleagues and famous influential figures such as Donald Judd, Henri Matisse, Frank Stella, and in the case of the present lot, Lucie Rie. Untitled (to Lucie Rie, Master Potter 1J), 1990, pays homage to the great Austrian born, British potter Lucie Rie. Her ceramics “are remarkable for their sense of stillness and inner strength, often appearing a great deal larger than they actually are. This great serenity of form, body, decoration and glaze unite in a completeness that is quiet, restrained and controlled.” (Emmanuel Cooper in Lucie Rie: Modernist Potter, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2012) Her growing aesthetic popularity has been described by Ben Williams, a specialist in ceramics who explains that “Japanese collectors prefer her bowls to her vases. He has attended tea ceremonies featuring Rie pots – a practice that would have pleased their maker.” (C. Barbour, “Appraisals: Lucie Rie,” ELLE Décor) The incorporation of Rie’s pieces into such an important cultural ceremony pleased Flavin as well, as an avid collector and admirer of Japanese prints, drawings and tea bowls. Artistically Flavin strove for his light works to be embraced into a higher culture where “the humble is elevated. Commercially produced, fluorescent strip lighting take on the sacred power of the candle held by Mary Magdalene, as painted in the 17th century in Georges de La Tour's The Penitent Magdalene. Flavin's fluorescent light is enduring, tranquil, cool. The very qualities that in other situations make it invisible and unloved - the seamlessness of the glow, the lack of dramatic intensity - become beautiful.” (J. Jones, “How many artists does it take to change a light bulb?,” The Guardian, August 28, 2001, p. 10)

    Art historically, the presence of light is the existence of knowledge and truth, the absence of light is darkness shrouded in mystery. In the present lot Flavin seeks to create a form of harmonious colors and compositional strength in line with Rie’s concise and powerful creations. Both Flavin and Rie pursued the essence of truth through light, Flavin through tubes of harsh fluorescence and Rie through textured and reflective glazes. Attributing Rie and other influencers to his work in title and in form, Flavin is tying their fate to his own; looking ahead to “a lamp that burns to death like any other of its kind. In time the whole electrical system will pass into inactive history. My lamps will no longer be operative; but it must be remembered that they once gave light.” (Dan Flavin, 1962 in J.S. Weiss, Dan Flavin: New Light, New Haven: Yale University, 2006, p. 19)

  • Artist Biography

    Dan Flavin

    American • 1933 - 1996

    Dan Flavin employed commercially-sold fluorescent light tubes in order to produce what he liked to call "situations" or installations. His minimalist approach transcended simplicity through his use of neon colors and thoughtful compositions. With straight-edged light beams, Flavin would often create dynamic arrangements reminiscent of Fred Sandback's work with yarn.

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Untitled (to Lucie Rie, Master Potter) 1J

blue, yellow, red, green fluorescent light
72 x 16 3/4 x 24 in. (183 x 42.5 x 61 cm)
This work is number 2 from an intended edition of 5 of which only 3 were fabricated and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

$150,000 - 250,000 

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale, Contemporary Art
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Meaghan Roddy
Head of Sale, Design
New York
+ 1 212 940 1266

Contemporary Art and Design Evening Sale

New York Auction 3 March 2015 6pm