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On Chandelier: A Reminder for the Kabakovs, Cerith Wyn Evans, Danh Vo and Yayoi Kusama



Chandelier appears to be an attractive subject to many contemporary artists. Just like Duchamp’s Fountain, the artist appropriates an object that suggests a universal interpretation of what it is, but at the same time, allows freedom of narratives for both the appropriator and the viewer. Nowadays, chandeliers function mostly as cultural souvenirs. For some, it recalls the nostalgic sentiment of reliving the simple, optimistic and elegance of the Belle Époque, or “Beautiful Era”. For others, it is a reminder of a suppressed past and a symbol of imperialism.

How does an object that epitomises Western glory resonates with artists from the East? What is the universality or particularity that chandeliers convey?
The Fallen Chandelier, 1997 Ilya & Emilia Kabakov

Russian artist-couple, Ilya & Emilia Kabakov created The Fallen Chandelier in 1997. The installation which consists of two components -a shattered chandelier on the floor and a snapped wire hanging from the ceiling- silently performs a theatrical narration of the vanishing beauty and romance in contemporary life. It addresses the intention of a beautiful object and its relationship with human as time evolves, especially with the added effect of a crystal-clinking sound, as if the quiet noise is reminding us of the fading aestheticism in contemporary life.










Cerith Wyn Evans, Chandeliers, 2003

Similar to the Kabakovs, the Welsh-born artist Cerith Wyn Evans, too, uses chandeliers to reminisce something from the past, except he wishes to recall the vanish of Morse Code. Evans’ Chandeliers (2003) investigates a tool of communication which has become obsolete. For anyone who can read Morse Code can probably decipher the blinking chandelier is, in fact, citing writings of John Cage.



Vietnamese-born Danish artist Danh Vo purchased a chandelier from Hotel Majestic in Paris- the venue hosted the signage of the peace treaty between Vietnam and the USA in 1973. Titled 08:03:51, 28.05.2009 (2009), the installation is the artist’s pursuit of his cultural identity, as a result of a personal yet collective history of the French colonialism in Vietnam.

Yayoi Kusama, Chandelier of Grief, 2016

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s Chandelier of Grief (2016) opens to interpretation, but the tragic title suggests that it is a personal one. For me, the installation reflects the artist’s own fear of death, Kusama has been suffering from deteriorating health conditions in recent years. The rotating chandelier installation is perhaps questioning about death: when will the chandelier reach the end of its shine, when will it stop rotating and when will be the end of our life?


Contemporary artists emphasise on creating new narratives for the individual and collective experience. Chandelier acts as a cultural reminder, of beauty (the Kabakovs), communication (Cerith Wyn Evans), identity (Danh Vo) and death (Yayoi Kusama) in the contemporary context. Regardless of their means of appropriating chandeliers, the central question lies in the artistic investigation of time and its impact on individuals.

______________________________________________ Image courtesy:- The Fallen Chandelier by the Kabakovs: Image © Ilya & Emilia Kabakov/DACS, London 2017. Photo: Richard Ivey. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London · Paris · Salzburg- Chandelier by Cerith Wyn Evans: see here- 08:03:51, 28.05.2009 by Danh Vo: Danh Vo, 08:03:51, 28.05.2009, 2009, Frida Gregersen/ SMK-Photo- Chandelier of Grief by Yayoi Kusama: KUSAMA Enterprise, Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore and Victoria Miro, London© Yayoi Kusama #IIlyaKabakov #EmiliaKabakov #Kabakov #CerithWynEvans #DanhVo #YayoiKusama #Kusama #Duchamp #chandelier #beauty #communication #morsecode #identity #culturalidentity #vietnamesewar #vietnam #imperialism #colonialism #history #comparativeaesthetics #death #time

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© 2020 By Henrietta Y. Mansfeld