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Haim Steinbach (B. 1944)
All sold and unsold lots marked with a filled squa… Read more
Haim Steinbach (B. 1944)

security and serenity #1

Haim Steinbach (B. 1944)
security and serenity #1
each: signed and dated 'haim steinbach '85' (on the reverse of wooden base)
plastic laminated wood shelf, four Gem Lites glitter lights; two white Makio Hasuike brushes and two black Makio Hasuike brushes
each shelf: 30 1/8 x 31 x 12 ¾in. (76.5 x 78.9 x 32.4cm.)
Executed in 1985
Sonnabend Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the previous owner and thence by descent.
Haim Steinbach, exh. cat., Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, 1997-1998 (another variant illustrated, p. 41).
H. Cotter, ‘Haim Steinbach: Shelf Life’, Art in America 76, May 1988, no. 6 (another variant illustrated, pp.156–7, p.162).
B.Taylor, Avant-Garde and After: Rethinking Art Now, New York 1995, pl. 59 (pp.88–89).
New York, New Museum, East Village USA, 2004 (another variant exhibited, pp. 30, 51 and 52)
M. Schwendener, ‘A Collection of Sculpture All About the Artists’, The New York Times, 11 January 2013 (another variant illustrated).
New York, Jay Gorney Modern Art, 1986.
Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Endgame: Reference and Simulation in Recent Painting and Sculpture, 1986 (another variant exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 81).
Chicago, The Renaissance Society, New Sculpture: Robert Gober, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, 1986.
Boston, The Institute of Contemporary Art, The Binational, American Art of the Late 80’s, 1988 (illustrated, p. 195). This exhibition later travelled to Boston, Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, 1988-89; Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen; Dusseldorf, Kunstverein fur die Rheinlande und Westfalen; Bremen, Kunsthalle Bremen, 1989 and Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein.
New Museum, East Village USA, 2004-2005 (another variant exhibited, illustrated p. 30).
New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, Once Removed, 2012–2013 (another variant exhibited).
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Post lot text
This work is from four variants, each unique. security and serenity #2 is in the collection of Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.

Lot Essay

The objects that Haim Steinbach places on his shelves are arranged in such a way that the values we ascribe to them is analogous to the way words shift their meaning when juxtaposed in a poem. For Wittgenstein, learning a language did not require one to learn the meaning of words so much as to comprehend the rules of word-usage. The same is true in Steinbach’s work, in which it is the arrangements that provide the paradigm through which his objects discover their meaning. It is the play of connotations between these objects that defines their relationships and betrays the stasis of their ‘still-life’ appearance.

Steinbach’s use of the shelf frames his sculptures within the social and cultural history of display. The often innocuous, mass-produced or mundane items he acquires from a variety of sources are placed upon shelves, creating a dividing line between their past value and their new role in Steinbach’s art.

In security and serenity #1 two pairs of Gem Lites bookend, on a grey-scale shelf, two pairs of Maiko Hasuike toilet brushes. The combination is, at first glance, incongruous. However, when we are forced to contemplate the two objects solely in terms of their relationship to each other, as Steinbach’s rules insist, the configuration starts to throw open unexpected and nuanced connections. The Gem Lites, with their hypnotic mutations, came very close to achieving the almost impossible, and perhaps absurd, task of turning a lamp into a leisure object. The public novelty it offered to countless living rooms in the late sixties and seventies could not provide a starker contrast to the private sanitary labour invoked by the toilet brush. Unlike the Gem Lite, whose function is to facilitate sight through the provision of light, the toilet brush is ordinarily concealed from view. Furthermore, it is not bound to the vagaries of taste, fashion or novelty, and is far from the conversation piece that the lava lamp aspires to be. Yet there is a twist: in 1985, the year security and serenity #1 was executed, innovative Japanese product design, such as embodied by Maiko Hasuike, was extremely desirable and aspirational. The lava lamp, by contrast, had become outmoded and unfashionable, a piece of kitsch that most assumed had been consigned to history.

As is often the case with Steinbach’s shelf works, the connotations of one object spill into those of the other. It is through this interplay of meaning, value and function that Steinbach reveals how objects become animated and elevated within the complex constellation of our desires.

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