From the Collection: 1960–1969

Ingo Maurer. Bulb. 1966

Chromium-plated metal and glass, 11 3/4 x 7 7/8" (29.8 x 20 cm). Gift of the designer. © 2023 Ingo Maurer

Juliet Kinchin: This design, called simply Bulb, announces very clearly its function. What Ingo Maurer is so brilliantly doing is taking the common light bulb and making us look at it again by changing the scale of it. It's actually a light bulb within a light bulb. And it was part of an art installation, but was so popular that it actually encouraged him to set up his company to meet the demand for this product.

This is the design that really launched the career of Maurer, born in Germany and trained as a typographer and graphic designer. He had moved to the United States and become immersed in the Pop culture of the early '60s. So it looks to Pop culture in this playful engagement with changing the scale, but also looking to this particularly German tradition of distilled, reductive forms.

It's interesting that Maurer said later: "Has anyone ever thought of the emotional side-effects of an energy-saving bulb?" Simply, I think, he's saying that the energy-saving bulbs just don't have that sense of perfect aesthetic and technological union, which gives the traditional light bulb that poetic resonance, which he's played with again and again in many of his designs.

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