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A lamp by Franz West.


Franz West (Austria):  Privat Lampe des Künstlers II  (1989)

Metal lamp fabricated of welded iron chain, mild hoaring evident from welding process, otherwise blackened iron finish / light bulb and socket left raw and unadorned / Dim: H 170 cm

By Keith Johnson.

FRANZ WEST, WHO died in Vienna on 26 July 2012 at age 65, was an Austrian artist who exhibited in internationally renowned museums and galleries for over three decades. His influential oeuvre was a large presence in major expositions such as Documenta (Kassel, Germany), Art Basel (Basel / Miami) and the Venice Biennale, where last year he was awarded the Lion d’Or for lifetime achievements.

West’s artwork was fabricated from uniquely ordinary materials, such as plaster, papier-mâché, aluminum, raw steel, wire, paper, etc.  Though he began his artistic career producing paintings and drawings, he quickly turned to collages, sculptures, portable maquettes called “Adaptives” (“Paßtücke”), environmental sculpture and furniture and lighting – welded metal chairs and minimally-upholstered chaises longues, etc.

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How he viewed his particular aesthetic was summed up early on: “It doesn’t matter what the art looks like but how it’s used.”  In accord with this thinking, in 1980 West began to create dozens of plaster body objects meant to adorn the face, worn around the waist or held in the crook of the neck.  Though these colorful works seemed to suggest costumes and props for the Carnevale di Venezia, they were far more ambiguous and less sexual in their abstractness. In their deliberate crudeness, the pieces leave the observer with the notion that the art is insulated from all human contact.

But they also relate directly to his installations and performances, where West transformed galleries, museums, and public spaces into lounge-like, sociable environments for viewing his art by means of unusual yet comfortable couches, chairs and lighting.

The “Privat Lampe des Künstlers II” floor lamp is an attempt to allow the opportunity to decorate a private residence with a rather strange yet wonderful Franz West metal object. This lamp, fabricated of unwieldly-looking iron chain, is absolutely austere in its appearance. Its sole embellishment: a disquieting raw light bulb.

An object such as the “Privat Lampe” allows the artist to encroach upon the owner’s personal, physical space with an anthropomorphic object that illuminates an insight into West’s unsettling art production – with a work of art that actually works.   

Manufacturer: MEMPHIS Milano srl, Milan, Italy
Collection: Collezione META, 1989
Edition: Limited Edition of Five-Hundred Units Only

Height: 170 cm


Keith Rennie Johnson is the President and Director of Urban Architecture, Inc., in Brooklyn, NY. The gallery features important twentieth century visual and avant-garde decorative art and for 20 years has been the leading US dealer for Memphis Milano and Museo Alchimia.

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