Dan Flavin (1933-1996)
Dan Flavin (1933-1996)

"monument" for V. Tatlin

Dan Flavin (1933-1996)
"monument" for V. Tatlin
cool white fluorescent light
height: 96 in. (244 cm)
Executed in 1967. This work is from an edition of five of which only four were fabricated. Please note this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Estate of Dan Flavin.
Courtesy of the Estate of Dan Flavin and David Zwirner
Passions privées: Collections particulires d'art moderne et contemporain en France, exh. cat., Paris, 1995, p. 494 (another example illustrated in color).
B [Blains Fine Art newsletter], no. 7, Autumn-Winter 2001, n.p. (another example illustrated in color).
M. Goran and T. Bell, Dan Flavin: The Complete Lights 1961-1996, New York, 2004, p. 261, no. 138.
Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art/Temporary Contemporary; Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art; Bordeaux, Musée d'art contemporain and Otterlo, The Netherlands, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Möller, "monuments" for V. Tatlin from Dan Flavin, 1964-1983, April 1984-January 1986, pl. 42 (another example illustrated in color).
New York, Lucas Schoormans Gallery, Lux, January-February 2000.
London, Blains Fine Art, Black and White, June-August 2001.
New York, David Zwirner, Artists for Haiti, September 2011.

Lot Essay

Dan Flavin's "monuments" for V. Tatlin, executed between 1964 and 1990, form the most sustained series of works by the artist. These works, of which there exist a total of approximately 50 different simple configurations of primarily cool white fluorescent light, were dedicated by Flavin to the Russian Constructivist Vladimir Tatlin. Like other artists in the 1960s, Flavin appreciated the Russian Constructivists for their desire to express revolutionary social and political attitudes in a language of pure abstraction, which, particularly in Tatlin's case, emphasized the use of real materials (tin, wood, iron, glass, plaster) in three-dimensional space.1

On the "monuments," Flavin has remarked:

Thus far, I have made a considered attempt to poise silent electric light in crucial concert point to point, line by line and otherwise in the box that is a room. This dramatic decoration has been founded in the young tradition of a plastic revolution which gripped Russian art only forty years ago. My joy is to try to build from that "incomplete" experience as I see fit.2 My concern for the thought of Russian artist designer, Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953), was prompted by the man's frustrated, insistent attitude to attempt to combine artistry and engineering. The pseudomonuments, structural designs for clear but temporary cool white fluorescent lighting, were to honor the artist ironically.3

The earliest works in this series were conceived between 1964 and 1968, shortly after Flavin created his diagonal of May 25, 1963, the first work in which the artist exclusively employed fluorescent lamps and fixtures. During this early period, Flavin was to discover the variability of this new medium, working with fluorescent lamps of differing commercially-available colors and sizes and playing with different possible configurations. In their investigation of variations of a simple set of fixed sculptural elements, the "monuments" comprise a quintessential example of the ideas of Minimal and Conceptual art. In this series, Flavin designed numerous related variations of white fluorescent lights made up of differing combinations of eight, six, four and two foot tubes (the standard commercially-available lengths). The "monuments" thus embody what the artist himself has described as his goal of working on "a sequence of implicit decisions to combine traditions of painting and sculpture in architecture with acts of electric light defining space."4

According to the Dan Flavin catalogue raisonné, "This work is dated 1964 on all three of the certificates but was dated 1967 in the 1989 MoCA catalogue. A list with drawings, prepared by the artist to assist in the selection of works for the 1984 MoCA Temporary Contemporary exhibition, indicates that the 1967 date (used here) derives from a drawing from that year. (See MoCA 1989 catalogue, fig. 36)."5 Another edition of this work is in the collection of the Sintra Museu de Arte Moderna - Colecção Berardo, Sintra, Portugal.

1 See Michael Govan, "Irony and Light," in Michael Govan and Tiffany Bell, Dan Flavin: The Complete Lights 1961-1996. Exh. cat. (New York: Dia Art Foundation, in association with Yale University Press, 2004), p. 42.
2 Dan Flavin, "The Artists Say," Art Voices 4, no. 3 (Summer 1965), p. 72; reprinted in Govan and Bell, p. 44.
3 Dan Flavin, "Some Artist's Remarks" in "monuments" for V. Tatlin from Dan Flavin, 1964-1982. Exh. cat. (Chicago: Donald Young Gallery, for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in collaboration with Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, 1989), n.p.; reprinted in Govan and Bell, p. 112.
4 Dan Flavin, "'in daylight or cool white.' an autobiographical sketch," first published in Artforum 4, no. 4 (December 1965), pp. 20-24; reprinted in Govan and Bell, p. 192.
5 Tiffany Bell with David Gray, Dan Flavin: Catalogue of Lights (catalogue raisonné) in Michael Govan and Tiffany Bell, Dan Flavin: The Complete Lights 1961-1996. Exh. cat. (New York: Dia Art Foundation, in association with Yale University Press, 2004), p. 261.

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