Rare and early Frank Gehry fish lamp with chair base on offer at Bonhams Los Angeles in October

20th Century Decorative Arts
7 Oct 2013
Los Angeles

Los Angeles–Throughout celebrated Venice Beach, Calif., based architect Frank O. Gehry's career, the fish has been an important archetype that appears in both his architecture and design projects.

Bonhams is proud to offer an example of a 1984 'Fish Lamp' estimated at $70,000-90,000 in the October 7 auction of 20th Century Decorative Arts in Los Angeles. This rare example from the Fish series illustrates Gehry's chosen symbol of the primal natural essence, the fish, and is repeated in his work from this period in various forms and incarnations. As simply stated by Gehry himself, the fish portrays "a perfect form."

The initial physical production of this Fish series is largely attributed to a significant development in materials, an advancement in a particular type of plastic laminate called ColorCore by Formica Corporation. A 1983 commission by the Formica Corporation prompted Gehry (and other artists) to experiment and develop works utilising the then-new material plastic laminate ColorCore.

These technological innovations inspired Gehry to create sculptural lamps where light glows through the scales of the fish. In this example, the creature floats above its plywood chair form base - an ethereal visitor – only resting lightly on the fixed and concrete form of the wood base. The medium enabled the artist to create these uniquely fluid and expressive forms, beautifully exemplified in this rare example.

Former Creative Director of Formica, Susan Grant Lewin, of Susan Grant Lewin Associates, The Premiere Public Relations Firm for Art, Architecture and Design, and author of "Formica & Design: From the Counter Top to High Art," shed some light on the inception of the Formica project which blossomed into Gehry's fish lamp series. Lewin recounted for Bonhams the time when she first introduced the newly developed homogenous laminate to her friend, architect and designer Frank O. Gehry.

"Artists and architects love to explore new materials, so when I showed Frank Colorcore he started playing around with it, then threw it on the floor," Lewin recalls. She continues, "The material broke at the edges into shards which resembled fish scale. It also was translucent. The fish lamp was born."

Bonhams is honoured to offer this piece for sale at auction during a period in which the post-war art and architecture landscape is being explored currently in Los Angeles in such exhibitions as "A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California" at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), which features the work of Gehry and his contemporaries. MOCA's exhibition is part of Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A., an initiative of the Getty.

For information about additional offerings in the Bonhams auction, please see the separate press release located at www.bonhams.com/departments/ANU/.

Auction: October 7, 2013 at 10am at Bonhams in Los Angeles
Auction Preview: October 4-6, 2013 (Friday-Sunday 12pm-5pm) at Bonhams in Los Angeles


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

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