Lot 120
  • 120

Dan Flavin

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
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  • Dan Flavin
  • Untitled
  • red and pink fluorescent light
  • 123 by 10 by 9.3cm.; 48 1/2 by 4 by 3 7/8 in.
  • Executed in 1969, this work is from an edition of 5, of which 2 examples were fabricated.


Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
Acquired directly from the above by the late owner


Michael Govan and Tiffany Bell, Eds., Dan Flavin: The Complete Lights, 1961-1996, New Haven and London 2004, p. 284, no. 221, artist's diagram illustrated in colour


This work is in very good condition and in full working order.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1969, Fluorescent Light employs commercially available strip lights to create a vivid and inclusive art work. In its unequivocal simplicity and rejection of the artist’s hand, it is an exemplary model of the minimalist and conceptualist work that prospered during this period. Exploring the possibilities and boundaries of light, colour and structure and the ways in which these elements overlap, Dan Flavin pushes this superficially banal material to an incredibly meaningful and engaging endpoint. Purchased by Casagrande from the Bruno Bischofberger Gallery, which also displayed works of Donald Judd, On Kawara, Joseph Kosuth, Sol Le Witt and Bruce Nauman, Fluorescent Light exudes art historical importance as well as intellectual and visual stimulation.

Beginning his career with experiments on paper that could be defined as Abstract Expressionist, Flavin’s remarkably consistent and rigorous career gained momentum when he began exploring the effects of neon lights. As these could only be obtained in certain uniform lengths, colours and diameters, Flavin was happily restricted to a standardised system of form and colour. In boldly declaring that these lights could stand on their own as works of art, Flavin challenged previous conceptions of the art object, referring back to the revolutionary Ready-Mades of Marcel Duchamp.

Here, Flavin has used 2 red lights and 6 pink lights to produce a subtle and harmonious piece that resonates through its simplicity and purity. The specific use of red light here was deeply important to the artist, and he once said, ‘a process of elimination produces red...Then you learn about the relativities of it - that red is a rather precious thing in fluorescent light, as it once was in the historic traditions of Western painting’ (D. Flavin in Dan Flavin interviewed by Phyllis Tuchman in 1972, in Dan Flavin: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Washington, 2004, p.193). Aside from enlightening us to Flavin’s formal decisions, this discussion also shows how firmly rooted his practise was in a vital understanding of past artistic practises. Beyond his referral to the use of red in the work of Old Masters such as Francisco Goya, Flavin’s work stems from the tradition of post-World War II American Art, such as the abstract pieces of Barnett Newman and, of course, the obsessive investigations of the colour red by Mark Rothko. There is a deep parallel between Rothko’s glowing paintings with their hovering forms, such as Red on Maroon, 1959, and the remarkable aura created by the coloured lights in Flavin’s work.

The seemingly thin and rigid lines of Flavin’s tubes interact with the space into which they are placed. The edge of the art work is literally blurred as the colour bleeds out into the surrounding architecture, inviting the viewer to participate in that moment. Supplicating paint for light, it becomes Flavin’s working material as he constructs his composition, juxtaposing and blending certain hues on the wall - the artist’s boundless canvas.  The necessary triptych of participants in Fluorescent Light - the object itself, the room and the viewer - work to disband the physical, material nature of the art object in an ethereal and elusive act.