Decorative Arts and Design
On View: Luce Visible Storage and Study Center, 5th Floor
Victor Gruen, a revolutionary genius in the field of corporate branding and marketing, is now best known as the architect of America’s first enclosed shopping mall. He created this light fixture for Barton’s Bonbonnière, a candy store founded by a fellow Austrian Jewish émigré at Broadway and 81st Street in Manhattan in 1938. In addition to giving the store a large plate-glass façade to entice customers inside, Gruen completely integrated the store’s interior design and retail components, decorating the candy boxes and shopping bags with small colored dots that echoed the painted disks of the lights. A great critical success, the formula was repeated in more than fifty identical stores nationwide by 1952.
The ceiling lights were clearly inspired by the kinetic metal mobiles that sculptor Alexander Calder began making in Paris in the 1930s. They are an excellent example of the blurring of the boundaries between the so-called high and low arts that characterized the twentieth century.
Painted metal (iron, steel, copper alloy, aluminum)
41 x 36 x 40 in. (104.1 x 91.4 x 101.6 cm) (show scale)
Marie Bernice Bitzer Fund
Whimsical ceiling light fixture inspired by Calder mobile sculptures. Top of fixture composed of circular white painted metal cap approximately five inches in diameter with squared edge. The bottom portion is a circular cap, diameter of seven and one-half inches, with sloping sides and a hole cut out in the center, approx one inch in diameter. Top and bottom portions of cap are connected by a circular reflective yellow metal band approximately two inches wide. This circular band extends eleven inches to form arm terminating in cylinder one inch wide and one and one-half inches long, through which a six-inch white rod has been inserted, terminating in a reflective yellow metal sphere measuring one and one-half inch in diameter from which three straight horizontal branches extend. These equidistant branches measure sixteen and one-half inches each, and each terminate in a perpendicular ring approximately one and one-half inch in diameter. Two extensions with concave curves intersect horizontally each of these three main branches at intervals uniform to all three branches. At the terminal points of each of the three main branches and the two intersecting extensions is a straight vertical rod onto which a total of fifteen flat metal discs are affixed horizontally; four measuring 3 inches in diameter, four measuring 4 inches in diameter, three measuring five inches in diameter and four measuring 6 inches in diameter. Each disc rises from the terminal of the branch at a variable height of four to nine and one-half inches. The underside of each disc is painted white, yellow, aquamarine, red, and gray. From center of white cap descends "L" shaped white hollow metal tube to case wiring, approximately forty-five inches in length and three-quarters of an inch in diameter. Bottom curved end connects to circular reflective yellow metal band that supports the upward bowl shaped gray perforated shade and smaller downward facing red shade.
Good condition. Paint is chipped and scratched in places. See conservation report in object file.
Victor Gruen (American, born Austria, 1903-1980). Ceiling Light, ca.1952. Painted metal (iron, steel, copper alloy, aluminum), 41 x 36 x 40 in. (104.1 x 91.4 x 101.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Marie Bernice Bitzer Fund, 2005.22. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2005.22_view1_PS2.jpg)
overall, 2005.22_view1_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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