Access Platinum Love for FREE


sign in to your account below

Access all back issues of Platinum Love and more
Register for FREE


Seeing the light

Published by Fabrizio Mifsud Soler | Art, Culture
share on
I’ll start off by confessing that until very recently, I’d never given much thought to neon tubes. Not in a domestic setting and far less in an artistic one. A visit to the Pinakothek der Moderne, reinforced by one a few weeks later to the MUMOK, swiftly flipped that upside down: I can openly admit that I now look at lighting fixtures in a different way.

This change of heart can be attributed to being within a few centimetres of one of Dan Flavin’s (1933-96) Monuments to V. Tatlin (1964 onwards). This work, a benchmark of minimalist sculpture is timeless in its simplicity and validity even four decades later. Why so? I’ll try to elucidate by taking a short journey through Flavin’s work in a wider context.



Flavin began creating his unmistakable body of work in the early 60s. By using commercially available fluorescent tubes in standard sizes and colours, he brought art closer to everyday life. As noble as that may sound however, there are instances where this trait did not do much good for the artist. His use of an object so commonplace and insignificant is, to this very day, the cause of fiery debates about whether or not then end product is actually art. So much so, that as recently as two years ago, the European Commission ruled that for tax purposes, his work should be classified as simple light fixtures. It has, they said, "the characteristics of lighting fittings … and is therefore to be classified … as wall lighting fittings".

It is easy to figure out how much time whoever came to that conclusion spent in the presence of Flavin’s work, and that would be zero. The works are, excuse the pun, luminary and their power (again, apologies) suspends the boundaries between work, room and viewer. They blur the line between rational form and poetic appearance silently and are in the end, beautifully self-staging. Perfectly fitting within this context, is European Couples (1966-71) an installation made up of fluorescent tube squares. Its beauty lies in its ability to dissolve the corners of a room whilst immersing viewers into an almost otherworldly coloured space.



Flavin’s works are sober, precise and carefully calculated. More often than not, they are dedicated to someone (from Jasper Johns and Henri Matisse to Christina and Bruno) thus betraying a touch of the artist’s sensitivity. However, in the end, one can’t help but think about how fleeting the magic is - one flick of a switch, and it’s all gone.

Dan Flavin - Lights, at the MUMOK, Vienna is open until February 3rd 2013.
Text by Fabrizio Mifsud Soler. Born and raised in Malta and now living in the heart of Vienna, independent art curator and proud lomographer, Fabrizio Mifsud Soler is a lover of art, travel, fashion and food (and keeping analogue alive, obviously). Photographs by Billy Jim, New York, last photograph by mumok.
Category Art, Culture
Tags Fabrizio Mifsud Soler, Dan Flavin