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    Sale 2167

    Post War and Contemporary Evening Sale

    13 May 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 16

    Dan Flavin (1933-1996)

    'monument' for V. Tatlin

    Price Realised  


    Dan Flavin (1933-1996)
    'monument' for V. Tatlin
    cool white fluorescent light
    96 x 28 x 5 in. (244 x 71.2 x 12.7 cm.)
    Executed in 1967. This work is number one from an edition of five. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

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    "I want to tell you how delighted I am with my new Flavin sculpture. It is, as you know, one of the Tatlins and looks like a shining diamond in my entry hall. It's on a white canvas wall which is very big, maybe 12 feet high. That makes my 5th Flavin - each one is so personal and individual that they are wonderful and joyous to live with."
    (Betty Freeman, in a letter to Flavin dated 1985)

    'monument' for V Tatlin is an early example from the celebrated and long-running series of works dedicated to the Russian avant-garde artist Vladimir Tatlin that Flavin began in 1964. Flavin's art has been directly inspired and influenced by much of the work of the Russian avant-garde. In particular, he admired the way that the Russians adopted the role of engineers rather than traditional artists. They had attempted to integrate art into everyday life and dismantled the conventional boundaries between the viewer and the work. In particular, Tatlin was a major influence on Flavin. His use of corner reliefs to activate and engage with the real space of the room can be seen in Flavin's own corner pieces. Tatlin's insistence on artists of the new industrial era, who produced works made from "real" industrial materials such as iron, glass and wood was a major influence on Flavin's adoption of industrial fluorescent light tubes.

    Flavin's 'monuments' for Tatlin are not homages to the Russian, but rather poignant commentary on the ultimate failure of Tatlin's modernist ideals. Taking the form of a tower of light or a fantastic futuristic glowing rocket ship in flight, Flavin's "monuments" illuminate their environment with a sense of feverish optimism and enthusiasm for the future. Mimicking also the structure of Tatlin's greatest unrealised project, his vast tower, the Monument to the Third Communist International, these works can be seen as "monuments" to an idealised view of the future that was never to be.

    The ethereal and temporal nature of Flavin's 'monuments' for Tatlin reflects and ironises this fleeting moment of utopianism. The fact that their essential constituent is a finite amount of light is paramount to their meaning. It is also a poignant reminder of the sad fate that overtook many Soviet artists, not least Tatlin himself, who died in poverty and neglect, spurned by the state to which he had dedicated both his art and his life. "I always refer to these 'monuments' in quotes," Flavin has explained, "in order to emphasize the ironic humor of temporary monuments. These monuments only survive as long as the light system is useful (2,100 hours)."


    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner on 17 May 1984

    Pre-Lot Text



    "monuments" for V. Tatlin from Dan Flavin, 1964-1982, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1989, pl. 44 (another example illustrated).
    F. de Vuono, "Review: Dan Flavin, Mary Boone Gallery," Art News, September 1991, vol. 90, no. 7, p. 127 (another example illustrated).
    G. Adriani, Museum für Neue Kunst: ZKM Karlsruhe, Munich, Berlin, London and New York, 2002, p. 29 (another example illustrated in color).
    M. Govan and T. Bell, Dan Flavin: The Complete Lights 1961-1996, New York, 2004, p. 261, no. 140 (illustrated).


    Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, Temporary Contemporary; Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art; Bordeaux, Musée d'art contemporain and Otterlo, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, 'monuments' for V. Tatlin from Dan Flavin 1964-1983, April 1984-January 1986.
    New York, Mary Boone Gallery, Dan Flavin: Tatlin Monuments, March 1991.
    New York, Pace Wildenstein, Group Exhibition, May-September 1995.
    New York, Danese Gallery, Dan Flavin: "monuments" for V. Tatlin, January-February 1997, p. 23 (another example illustrated).
    Karlsruhe, Museum für Neue Kunst, Minimal Art aus den Sammlungen FER, Froehlich und Siegfried Weishaupt, March-April 2001, p. 80 (another example illustrated in color).