Lights Out on the Art World

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Published August 3, 2009

 

 

Art should be illuminating. Thanks to an environmentally-friendly EU law that comes into effect on September 1, some art will be much less so. The law stipulates that incandescent light bulbs will be banned and anyone peddling them could suffer an eye-popping fine.
While its true that incandescent light is flattering, its virtues can’t justify the energy cost, and after all, no electric lights are as kind as good natural candle light. But the law means lights out for
certain art works by Valie Export, Kienholz, Joseph Beuys, Olafur Eliasson, Carsten Höller, Stephan Huber, Mike Kelley, Adrian Paci and other brilliant artists. Some of their works include the offensive bulb.  Others, like Russian conceptual artist Ilya Kabakov’s 1988 “The Man Who Flew into His Picture,” consist of bulbs alone. What’s a collector to do? And other works stipulate that they must be lit using incandescent light. On one hand, significant art ought to challenge rules and burn bright into the future. On the other hand, it’s good to have a future, so maybe
some of these works could retain their integrity even if they become lighted with eco-options.