Lot 60
  • 60

Felix Gonzalez-Torres

5,000,000 - 7,000,000 USD
5,195,600 USD
bidding is closed


  • Felix Gonzalez-Torres
  • "Untitled"
  • light bulbs, porcelain light sockets and extension cord


Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
Marieluise Hessel
Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
Südwest LB Kunstsammlung, Stuttgart/Mannheim (acquired from the above in 1994)
Christie's, London, February 5, 2003, Lot 12
Acquired by the present owner from the above


New York, Andrea Rosen Gallery, Felix Gonzalez-Torres: A Simple Week, June 1992 (the present work)
Ridgefield, Connecticut, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art; Cincinnati, The Contemporary Art Center; Youngstown, Ohio, The Butler Institute of American Art; Palm Beach, The Art Gallery at Palm Beach Community College; and Wilmington, Delaware, Delaware Art Museum, Simply Made in America, January 1993 - April 1995, p. 87 (text) (edition 1/2)
Morristown, New Jersey, The Morris Museum, Living With Art: The Ellyn and Saul Dennison Collection, October - November 1993, p. 45, illustrated in color (edition 1/2)
New York, The FLAG Art Foundation, Floating a Boulder: Works by Felix Gonzalez-Torres & Jim Hodges, October 2009 - January 2010, pp. 28-30, illustrated in color (the present work)
New York, David Zwirner Gallery, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, April - July 2017 (the present work)


Eric Troncy, "Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Placebo," Art Press, no. 181, June 1993, p. E19, illustrated (edition number unknown)
Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (and travelling), Felix Gonzalez-Torres, 1995, p. 185, illustrated (edition number unknown)
Lewis Baltz, "Felix Gonzalez-Torres," L'architecture d'aujourd'hui, no. 306, September 1996, p. 14, illustrated in color (edition number unknown)
Dietmar Elger, et al., eds., Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Catalogue Raisonné, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1997, p. 99, no. 186, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

A work of breathtaking elegiac beauty, “Untitled" from 1992 is amongst the most eloquent examples from the radical, unprecedented, and utterly profound oeuvre of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Suspended along the length of the delicately undulating white cord, the twenty-four light bulbs of “Untitled” can be understood to enact a poignant meditation upon the themes of endless unity, mortality, and regeneration which run through the heart of the artist’s celebrated practice. Exceptionally rare, “Untitled" belongs to the series of twenty-four light string works created by Gonzalez-Torres following the death of his partner, Ross Laycock, in 1991. Produced in the following year, the present work is the first example in the body of light string works. In testament to their immense significance, examples of the light strings are held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among other notable institutions, while the remainder resides amongst the world’s most prestigious private collections.


In its sublime simplicity of form, “Untitled" strikes a delicate balance between the artist’s own, deeply personal narrative and themes of universal significance; despite their glow, each bulb will one day flicker out, only to be replaced by another in an act of interminable decay and regeneration. As they suffuse the viewer in a soft halo of light, the glowing bulbs resonate with meaning that is at once intimate and shared, specific and unknowable, permanent and fleeting, achieving Gonzalez-Torres’s ultimate gesture of implicating the perceiver in the construction of profound meaning. In his unexpected re-appropriation and activation of light bulbs and electric cord—objects frequently encountered and utilized in quotidian context—Gonzalez-Torres blurs the border between the familiar world of the everyday and the unknown, unplumbed depths of an altogether more poignant reality. Remarking upon this aspect of the artist’s practice, Nancy Spector describes, “it is also through vision that one can reinvent the universe, infusing the most mundane objects with an undeniable poetry. For Gonzalez-Torres, two glowing light bulbs transmute into a pair of inseparable lovers, a gauze curtain gently fluttering in the breeze incarnates the memory of a departed friend, and a heap of brightly wrapped candies becomes a sensorial body.” (Nancy Spector in Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, 1995, p. x) The artist’s use of quotidian objects in “Untitled" evokes the readily available materials used by the Minimalist and Conceptual artists of the 1960s and 70s, exemplified in the sculptures of such artists as Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, and Donald Judd, amongst others; unlike his predecessors, however, Gonzalez-Torres transforms these everyday objects, imbuing their sleek forms with emotive force. Far from the impersonal neutrality and cool permanence of Minimalism, the eventual decay of the glowing bulbs of “Untitled" resonates with the suggested transience and vulnerability of human life. This intimacy between viewer and object is further intensified by Gonzalez-Torres’s instruction that certain decisions about the arrangement and installation of each work are made at the discretion of the exhibitor. The artist describes his practice as inhabiting the space “between public and private, between personal and social, between the fear of loss and the joy of loving, of growing, of changing, of always becoming more, of losing oneself slowly and then being replenished all over again from scratch. I need the viewer, I need public interaction. Without a public these works are nothing, nothing. I need the public to complete my work.” (Tim Rollins, Susan Cahan, and Jan Avgikos, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, New York 1993, p. 23)


Gonzalez-Torres’s light string works are inherently imbued with a potential both to illuminate and to obscure, their elegant forms simultaneously suggesting presence and absence; this liminality can be understood as an allusion to the universal human condition and, more intimately, as the artist’s representation of a personal, deeply felt loss. The artist began working with light bulb and extension cords in 1991, soon after the death of Gonzalez-Torres’s lover, Ross Laycock, in January of that year; the first light sculpture, featuring only two bulbs, suspended from independent, intertwined cords, is titled “Untitled” (March 5th) #2 in a discreet reference to the day of Ross’s birth. Describing the impetus behind that work, Gonzalez-Torres notes, “When I first made those two lightbulbs, I was in a total state of fear about losing my dialogue with Ross, of being just one.” (Exh. Cat., New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (and travelling), Felix Gonzalez-Torres, March - May 1995, p. 183) The intimate union symbolized in “Untitled" is a fragile one as, over time, the glowing bulbs inevitably dim, flicker, and die out, echoing the inevitable and bittersweet reality of our own relationships. Yet just as in the artist’s iconic work “Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), in which viewers may choose to remove a piece of candy from a pile that can be continuously replenished, his instruction that the burned out bulbs be replaced in perpetuity allows for the suggestion of regeneration within inevitable dissolution. In its illuminating glow, “Untitled" reveals the remarkable delicacy of culturally mandated distinctions between the intimate and the communal, the seen and the felt, the known and the imagined. As a narrative of profound love and loss, the present work is a modern elegy of unrivaled eloquence; indeed, one scholar remarks that the shimmering light of “Untitled" invokes one of Gonzalez-Torres’s favorite poems, Wallace Stevens’s romantic elegy “The Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour: “Light the first light of evening, as in a room / In which we rest and, for small reason, think / The world imagined is the ultimate good….Out of this light, out of the central mind, / We make a dwelling in the evening air, / In which being there together is enough.” (Wallace Stevens, “The Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour,” cited in Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, 1995, p. 183) 


Simultaneously, by encouraging the viewer to acknowledge, even participate in the making of meaning for his artworks, Gonzalez-Torres inspires an equally personal and emotive response from the viewer. In its austere and striking beauty, “Untitled" contains an unspeakable multitude of meanings, epitomizing the powerful mediation upon endless unity, love, loss, and hope that can be understood as the central essence of Felix Gonzalez-Torres' extraordinary practice.