Joseph Beuys - BEUYS 100 London Monday, June 14, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'Change battery every thousand hours.'

    The concept of balance reigns supreme in Beuys’ Capri-Batterie. Made in the final year of his life, while recovering from lung disease on the island of Capri, this late multiple brings the sunshine of the Mediterranean home to a weakened aging artist. Simply, a light-bulb is inserted into a lemon, merging the natural and the man-made worlds into one. 


    Combining the organic with the artificial, Beuys re-enacts the ecological mechanism of balance through opposition. The lemon grows by storing the electromagnetic raditation transmitted by the sun through the naturally-occuring process of photosynthesis. As a manufactured product, the light-bulb is  instead contingent on human intervention. Placed together, the objects aquire a multiplicity of meaning: the light-bulb represents man’s triumph over nature, as the lemon ripens at a slow pace, the former’s efficacy separates it from the biological realm. Like many of Beuys’ works, scientific properties are also incorporated within the overarching symbolism: according to the laws of physics, energy cannot be created nor destroyed, just transformed. As the light-bulb uses the lemon as its power source, transferring its energy, Beuys finally situates man’s ingenuity as dependent on nature. 


    Failing to realise its only function as it is never turned on, the light-bulb is ever-lasting, while the lemon will inevitably deteoriate, as all biological matter does. The ephemeral quality of life, set against the perpetuity of the man-made, draws attention to the parasitic effect that society has on the natural world. Not least, due to the increasing necessity for a sustainable solution to non-degradable, artificial waste. While practically false, the symbiosis of the two objects presents this universal truth, leading us, also through the objects’ yellow colour, to the sun – our ultimate energy source. As the sun fuels our planet, so our planet fuels our society. For Beuys, nature held innate meanings capable of guiding human thought and action; Capri-Batterie is rooted in this premise, prompting the conversations surrounding energy, a subject that could not be more topical today. 

    • Exhibited

      Basel, Museum Tinguely (long term loan)

    • Literature

      Jörg Schellmann 546

Property of a Private Swiss Collector


Capri-Batterie (Capri Battery) (S. 546)

Multiple comprising light bulb (Mazda) with manufacturer's inkstamp, plug socket, and exchangeable lemon, all contained in the original wooden box with yellow printed title.
dimensions variable, light bulb and plug socket 11.7 x 6.6 x 5.8 cm (4 5/8 x 2 5/8 x 2 1/4 in.)
Signed and numbered 62/200 in pencil on the accompanying Certificate of Authenticity (there were also some artist's proofs), published by Edizioni Lucio Amelio, Naples.

Full Cataloguing

£10,000 - 15,000 Ω ♠

Sold for £16,380

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London Auction 14 June 2021