Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Presents “Provoking Magic: Lighting of Ingo Maurer”
“Provoking Magic: Lighting of Ingo Maurer,” a retrospective of German lighting designer Ingo Maurer’s four decades of work, opens Sept. 14 at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and runs through Jan. 27, 2008. The exhibition features numerous site-specific lighting installations conceived and designed by Maurer and his team for the unique spaces in the landmark Andrew Carnegie Mansion that is home to Cooper-Hewitt, as well as prototypes, commissioned one-off pieces, and photographs and films documenting Maurer’s illumination projects around the world.
Fascinated by what he calls the “magical and mystical” properties of light, Maurer constructs luminous atmospheres that play with traditional concepts of color, brightness and shadow. Since 1966, Maurer has created more than 150 different variations of lamps and lighting systems and designed lighting for diverse international venues, including fashion runways, public buildings and monuments and private homes. Maurer uses unexpected materials and found objects to create light, and he is among the first designers to experiment with halogen and light-emitting diodes.
“Light can be sensual, it can be comforting, it can even be dangerous,” said Maurer. “It goes beyond science or nature or even art—it is as potent as life itself.”
“Provoking Magic” marks the United States debut of some of Maurer’s 2007 works and provides a comprehensive look at the highlights of his versatile career. Sketches and handwritten notes accompany the objects and installations, offering visitors insight into the creativity and humor of Maurer’s complete design process.
“Ingo Maurer infuses his work with wit and playfulness, and his installations invariably provoke an
emotional response,” said Director Paul Warwick Thompson. “His commitment to exploring new frontiers
makes him one of the most significant contemporary designers working today.”
Exhibition highlights include the following:
• Animated, whispering portraits of the Carnegie couple for which the mansion is named, which Maurer manipulates to create the illusion that the portraits have moving eyes and mouths
• His newly developed work “Rose, Rose on the Wall,” which is presented as part of a futuristic domestic installation and can adjust in color and brightness according to one’s mood
• Maurer’s classic first work, “Bulb,” a table lamp designed in 1966 as an homage to Thomas Edison’s invention.
• “HOT.HOT,” his contemporary design solution to the ordinary desk lamp that features an unconventional system of lenses that reflect light
• One of Maurer’s more minimalist designs, “Lucellino,” a bare bulb with little white wings that illuminates when the wings are touched; a “flock” of these bulbs are installed in Mrs. Carnegie’s bedroom to appear as though they are flying in from the window.
• A recreation of the room setting for the lighting fixture “Wo bist du, Edison,…?” (Where are you, Edison,…?), a whimsical design that includes a hanging lamp with a lampshade that projects a hologram of the original 1879 light bulb and a material socket shaped to resemble Edison’s profile for the image of the bulb.
The exhibition also showcases new versions of Maurer’s dramatic light sculpture “Paragaudí,” a giant gilded rippling ribbon hung from the ceiling; “Symphonia Silenziosa,” a low-voltage halogen system with hanging miniature sails that appear to dance in the light; and “Tableaux Chinois,” which uses live goldfish and mirrors to create an interplay of light and dark shadows that are projected onto a wall. In several works, such as “The MaMoNouchies” and “Blushing Zettel’z,” Maurer uses paper as a translucent medium. For the exhibition at Cooper-Hewitt, Maurer will construct his stunning “Pensatoio d’oro,” a tent-like cube made of gold-plated paper.
Many of Maurer’s iconic works are remounted and reconceived specifically for this exhibition. Famed international projects are documented in “Provoking Magic” through photographs and renderings. A fully illustrated catalogue, featuring an interview with Ingo Maurer and essays about the designer's career and methods, accompanies the exhibition. The book will also be available in a limited-edition metal case inspired by Maurer's work.
“Provoking Magic: Lighting of Ingo Maurer” is made possible by Bloomberg.
About Ingo Maurer
Ingo Maurer (b. 1932, Germany) was trained as a typographer and studied graphic design in Munich, Germany, before emigrating to the United States in 1960. In 1963, after working as a freelance designer in New York and California, he returned to Munich and founded his business, Design M. Today, Maurer owns his own factory and leads a team of more than 70 employees. By manufacturing his own designs, Maurer maintains complete artistic freedom and is involved in every stage of the design process, from the initial idea to the final product and packaging design.
He is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Lucky Strike Designer Award from the Raymond Loewy Foundation (2000), the Primavera del Disseny award from the city of Barcelona (2001) and the Design Excellence Award from the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2002). In 2005, Maurer was appointed Royal Designer of Industry by The Royal Society of Arts, London, and in 2006, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by the Royal College of Art in London.
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. The museum presents compelling perspectives on the impact of design on daily life through active educational programs, exhibitions and publications. Founded in 1897 by Amy, Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt granddaughters of industrialist Peter Cooper—as part of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the museum has been a branch of the Smithsonian since 1967.
Cooper-Hewitt is located at 2 East 91st Street at Fifth Avenue in New York City. Hours are Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 6 p.m. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Public transit routes include the Lexington Avenue 4, 5 and 6 subways (86th or 96th Street stations) and the Fifth and Madison Avenue buses. General admission, $15; senior citizens and students ages 12 and older, $10. Cooper-Hewitt members and children younger than age 12 are admitted free. For further information, please call (212) 849-8300 or visit http://www.cooperhewitt.org. The museum is fully accessible.
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