Ingo Maurer

Ingo Maurer


Literature: Maurer, Ingo. “Provoking Magic: The Lighting of Ingo Maurer” published in conjunction with the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum exhibition. France: Editions Assouline, 2008.

“Q&A: Ingo Maurer” Metropolis Magazine, May 17, 2005.

Helmut Bauer (ed.), Making Light, Nazraeli Press, Münich 1992.

Ingo Maurer can arguably be said to be among the design geniuses of our time. He was born in 1932 on the Island of Reichenau , Lake Constance, Germany. He trained as a graphic designer from 1954-1958 and emigrated to the United States in 1960, where he worked as a freelance designer for three years at Kayser Aluminum and at IBM. His time in the States was short-lived, though, and he decided to return to Munich.

It was during this time that Maurer began to focus exclusively on new concepts in lighting design. In 1966, Maurer opened Design M, a firm which specialized in producing cutting-edge lighting design. During the last forty-three years, Maurer has become the “most prolific lighting designer, creating over 150 lights and lighting systems”. He is considered to be a pioneer in the usage of new lighting technologies.” He once said that he is fascinated by the “magical and mystical” properties of light, and this is evident in the humor, originality, and ofted sheer beauty of his work, as exemplified by the Chanel table – a long, low piece that can be either a bench or table, with tiny LED lights imbedded in the three thick layers of glass that form the slabs. When illuminated, one has the impression of stars floating in space.

Maurer’s work is heavily influenced by Pop Art, a movement which he became familiar with while living in America, and his first lighting design, “Bulb” (1966), took on the form of an outsize light bulb of chromium-plated metal and hand-blown glass. “Bulb” was created for an installation at the Herman Miller showroom in Münich. Maurer has said in the past, “I have always been fascinated by the light bulb because it is the perfect meeting of industry and poetry. The bulb is my inspiration.”

The naked light bulb figures prominently in Ingo Maurer’s designs: it is his way of paying tribute to Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of the light bulb. In 1969, Ingo Maurer designed “No fuss” and, in 1979 the elegantly simple “Savoie” lamp. In 1980, however, Ingo Maurer deliberately reverted to his first lighting success to produce “Bulb Bulb”, which can be either a pendent lamp or a floor lamp and is also in the form of an outsized light bulb. This time, the lamp is made of plastic, and its appearance can be changed by the use of colored light bulbs – and it is deliberately kitschy. “Bulb Bulb is fun. “Pop and kitsch,” as Ingo Maurer expresses it. At the 1984 “Euroluce” trade fair in Milan, Ingo Maurer launched the technology he had developed for a halogen lighting system, which immediately created a furor. Little low-voltage halogen lamps are strung in parallel rows in space. In 1992 Ingo Maurer came up with “Lucellino”, a light bulb sporting little goose-feather wings.

The Ingo Maurer’s hanging lamp “Porca Miseria”, made to look like an explosion of broken crockery suspended around the source of light dates from 1994, and is one of his most famous and original pieces. “Zettel’z” (1998), was another smash hit, a lamp with scraps of Japanese paper fastened on wires, bearing poems or drawings. In 1999, Maurer used several large aluminum lampshades having a diameter a diameter of four meters in his design for the Munich Westfriedhof underground station. A smaller version of the Ingo Maurer “XXL Dome” has been mass produced. By 1973 Design M had become Ingo Maurer Lighting GmbH.

Throughout his career, Maurer’s work has been featured in numerous museum exhibitions, most recently at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum show entitled “Provoking Magic: The Lighting of Ingo Maurer” (September 14, 2007- January 27, 2008). His work is part of many prominent museum collections worldwide. He has been the recipient of frequent accolades, and some of his honors include “Chevalier des arts et de letters” from the French Minister of Culture (1986), “Designer of the Year 1997” from the German magazine Architektur (1997), “Design Prize 1999” from the City of Munich (1999), “Lucky Strike Designer Award” 2000 from the Raymond Lowey Foundation (2000), George Jensen Prize 2002 awarded by the George Jensen Prize Committee (2002), and was appointed “Royal Designer of Industry” by the Royal Society of Arts (2005).

The idea for the LED Bench, in the collection of Primavera Gallery, came to Maurer during the planning the 70th Anniversary exhibition of the Coco Chanel Diamond Collection. However, he has long been interested in LED technology. He wanted to create an object were LED lights were placed between “sheets of glass, without any wires.” For Maurer, “a bench of glass floating on lights…is very poetic.”