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DAN FLAVIN (1933-1996)
Property from a Private Important European Collection
DAN FLAVIN (1933-1996)

untitled (monument for V. Tatlin)

Details
DAN FLAVIN (1933-1996)
untitled (monument for V. Tatlin)
cool white fluorescent light
95 7/8 x 32 ¼ x 4 5/8in. (243.5 x 82 x 11.8cm.)
Conceived in 1968 and fabricated under the supervision of the artist in 1989. This work is number one from an edition of five, of which two were fabricated.
Provenance
Donald Young Gallery, Chicago.
The Refco Collection, Chicago (acquired from the above in 1989).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's New York, 17 November 1998, lot 30.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
S. Taylor (ed.), The Refco Collection, Chicago 1990, p. 190.
F. De Vuono, 'Review: Dan Flavin, Mary Boone Gallery', in Art News 90, no. 7, September 1991 (another example from the edition illustrated, p. 127).
M. Govan and T. Bell, Dan Flavin, The Complete Lights 1961-1996, New York 2004, no. 160 (diagram illustrated, p. 267).
Exhibited
New York, Mary Boone Gallery, Dan Flavin: Tatlin Monuments, 1991.
Athens, Galerie Jean Bernier, Dan Flavin: Selected Works, 1991 (another example from the edition exhibited).
Athens, Athens School of Fine Arts "the factory", Everything That's Interesting Is New: The Dakis Joannou Collection, 1996, p. 100 (another example from the edition exhibited and reversed image illustrated in colour, p. 101). This exhibition later travelled to Copenhagen, Museum of Modern Art and New York, Guggenheim Museum Soho.
Post lot text
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

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Tessa Lord

Lot Essay

‘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’
–Dan Flavin


Composed of eight vertical tubes of white fluorescent light arranged in a stepped, rightward sequence of varying lengths, untitled (monument for V. Tatlin) is an early work from Dan Flavin’s seminal series of ‘monuments’ dedicated to the Russian Constructivist Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953). Flavin had made the first of these in 1964, just four years before the present work was conceived; only two examples, from a theoretical edition of five, were fabricated during the artist’s lifetime. The lower case in Flavin’s title – often accompanied by quote marks – indicates the irony at play. Far from monumental, these ‘monuments’ are made from everyday, pre-fabricated components that must periodically be replaced as they burn out. Discussing another from this series, Flavin explained that the work ‘memorializes Vladimir Tatlin, the great revolutionary, who dreamed of art as science. It stands, a vibrantly aspiring order, in lieu of his last glider, which never left the ground’ (D. Flavin, ‘The Artists Say’, art voices, Summer 1965, p. 72). Tatlin’s greatest project, the ‘Monument for the Third International’, was never built; in his final years, he worked on a da Vinci-like flying machine that was similarly unrealised. Rather than making a homage to the grand, utopian, collective ideals of Constructivism, Flavin’s work memorialises the tragic-heroic life of one individual artist. It is an aching ode to unfulfilled potential. The utilitarian, low-tech fluorescent tubes, as much as Flavin might have claimed they were free of expressive resonance, make for a wry commentary on the commercial fate of the Modernist ideal, and their glow also imbues the work with an ephemeral, romantic edge. Flavin, whose unique, complex and uncompromising practice cannot be cleanly defined as ‘Minimalism’ or by any other label, was fascinated by Byzantine icons; Tatlin himself began his career as an icon-painter in Moscow, and his and Malevich’s radical modern art clearly learned from, and even threatened to usurp, the loaded aura of iconic form. Poised between the ironic and the ecstatic, the austere purity of Flavin’s ‘monument’ carries an unavoidable charge of devotional magic. As Elizabeth C. Baker wrote in 1967, ‘Flavin does something for one’s idea of light: it is he who makes its mystical qualities uncompromisingly evident, by the very fact of such stark presentation’ (E. C. Baker, ‘The Light Brigade’, Art News, March 1967, p. 64).

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