An ethnic lamp with my name on it
  • Any kind of lamp you can (or not) think of
  • It looks like a floor lamp, but is it?
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    Auction Finds

    A lamp in search of an identity

    I had arrived at the auction house late on purpose. This was the day of one of its Modern Design sales, so I knew I could afford very little on the tables, floors or walls.

    I always go to browse because this auction house usually has some very arresting pieces for both this sale and its Decorative Arts sales. And each of them pulls in the big bucks – especially from bidders on the phone or the internet.

    I was also there to see if I might just snare a small Feliciano Bejar steel and glass Magiscopes sculpture at a price I could live with. No such luck on his, but I did see one of the strangest sculptures I had seen before.

    A close-up of the teapot lamp with its disparate found objects.

    I watched as an auction assistant sat on a table a lamp made of found objects. The auctioneer called it a teapot lamp, giving it the name of one of the objects. I’ve seen art made with items picked up from the trash or other unusual places, and have marbled at how an artist can create beauty from ordinary discards. These  artists can take a piece of scrap metal and make it into a sculpture that is as riveting as a painting on canvas with more familiar objects.

    This lamp, though, was different because its structure was incongruous. None of the pieces seemed to fix together harmoniously. It was a hodgepodge of found items – a ribbed glass gold globe, two candle holders (one missing a glass cover), a teapot with its top opened, a colander and what looked like the top of an etched crystal bowl.

    This lamp had an identity complex. It didn’t seem to know what it was or what it wanted to be. It wasn’t a small lamp, either; it measured more than 3 feet tall and almost a foot and a half wide. So, it was not one that could be easily missed.

    A full view of the teapot lamp.

    One auctioneer told us a secret about the lamp that we would never have seen otherwise: Hidden inside the opaque globe was a Diet Coke can. How did he know that? Because the artist had written this inscription in ink on the base: With hidden diet Coke.

    The inscription also included a signature that was illegible and the date 1998.

    Maybe it’s just me and I don’t appreciate fine art that’s different. Maybe this lamp was made by a creative genius who likes to bend our notion of what art should be. Maybe the artist was trying not to create the sameness that he/she saw in most such lamps, like this one here and here that used Coke cans and found objects. I’d love to know how the lamp came about.

    At auction, I was so stricken by the lamp that I’m not even sure if it sold – and if so, for how much.

    An inscription on the base of the lamp alerts us to the Diet Coke can inside the globe.


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