Ingo Maurer - Design New York Tuesday, December 5, 2023 | Phillips

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  • In the early 1990s, when an Italian viewer first encountered a lighting design by Ingo Maurer similar to the present ceiling light, he exclaimed “porca miseria!” (roughly “for God’s sake!”). Amused by this exclamation, the designer decided to name the work after it—typical of his irreverent and witty approach to design.


     “Chance rules our life, much more than intention.”
    —Ingo Maurer


    Ingo Maurer initially created a lighting design that featured shards of porcelain emanating from a light source in 1990 for a special commission for the Villa Wacker in Lindau, Germany. Four years later he expanded upon this visual idiom in a more dramatic and complex way. Maurer presented another lighting design that featured pieces of broken crockery attached to steel poles at a design fair in Milan. Originally Maurer titled the light Zabrinkie Point after the 1970 film by Michelangelo Antonioni which ended with a dramatic, slow-motion explosion of a building. Describing this influence, Maurer said, "I am fascinated by pictures of explosions, especially seen in slow motion, and I wanted to challenge today's chandelier mania – conservative and humorless." The title was an obvious choice for the ceiling light, but it was only when the Italian viewer remarked “Porca miseria!” that the designer re-named the ceiling light.


    Still from Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabrinkie Point (1970). 

     Over the next two decades, Maurer continued to produce similar designs in limited quantities, often tailored for specific commissions. Each ceiling light is unique and features various configurations of porcelain shards. Describing the somewhat-haphazard and somewhat-calculated process, Maurer said, “We buy porcelain plates at a regular shop. First, we smash them: I have one, I drop it; or I take a hammer to it. It looks very much at random — and it is, maybe 50 or 60 percent. The rest is in a way constructed: There's a bit of calculation of how big I want to have the piece I want to use.”



    The present example also includes various cutlery scattered throughout. From 2006 onwards, Maurer began to include other objects such as chopsticks and porcelain figures in his Porca Miseria! ceiling lights.  

    • Literature

      Helmut Bauer, Ingo Maurer: Making Light, Munich, 1992, p. 225 for a similar example
      Ingo Maurer: To Buy or Not to Buy, sales catalogue, Munich, 1998, p. 67 for a similar example
      Kim Hastreiter, et al., Provoking Magic: Lighting of Ingo Maurer, exh. cat., Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York, 2007, p. 50 for a similar example
      Bernhard Dessecker, ed., Ingo Maurer: Designing with Light, Munich, 2008, pp. 163, 165, 167-68 for similar examples

Property of a Distinguished Collector


"Porca Miseria!" ceiling light

designed 1994
Glazed porcelain, stainless steel.
height of fixture: 46 in. (116.8 cm), variable drop

Full Cataloguing

$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $88,900

Contact Specialist

Benjamin Green
Associate Specialist
Associate Head of Sale
+1 917 207 9090


New York Auction 5 December 2023