‘You are the lightest and most unexpected poet of the fragility of light’.
‘Light is a very flexible material where often we don’t even know if it exists or not. Research in a field like this never ends. As a designer I have always sought emotional satisfaction, above any other factor. That is the key to my work, but I live it as an intuition rather than a duty’.
I have been asked to write about Ingo Maurer. I found this quote from him, and it gave me the opportunity to describe a whole world of emotions through some of his fascinating poetry of light.
Below is a selection of my favourite lamps from the Maurer collection, listed in order of my discovery rather than chronologically. Together, they represent a journey through the work of my friend Ingo Maurer and, more importantly, the emotions that he’s stirred up in me throughout our encounters.
1. YaYaHo, 1984
I was with Gabriel Ordeig Cole when we saw Ingo Maurer for the first time, at the Euroluce Fair in Milan, in 1984. We both stopped still in front of his stand. Something was happening in that corner of the fair; you wanted to get closer and share in the emotions; there was such a good vibe, such good light, it was so beautiful, so good looking! Where did they come from?
We had little idea of Ingo Maurer. It was the first time we felt something like that, and we wanted to meet him. We waited patiently for Maurer to find a moment for us; it was an honour that he accorded us some of his time, which he did, and he listened to us attentively. We met the person behind those lamps; he emanated generosity and enthusiasm, life and emotion.
They were presenting the YaYaHo system: a halogen light floating in the air. It looked like an electric cable with colourful birds, strings with clothes hanging from them, or trapeze artists on the tightrope. It couldn’t be more beautiful! I read in an interview that Maurer’s inspiration came to him after he spent a New Year’s Eve in Haiti; he left a nightclub at dawn and saw a small, naked light bulb swinging between two cables, fighting against the rising sun.
It affected me so much that I’ve tried year after year never to miss any of his exhibitions—although I did miss one, ‘Lumières : Je Pense à Vous’, at the Centre Georges Pompidou, in Paris, in 1985, where the system was a true explosion of light and colour.
2. Ilios, 1983
This is the first Maurer lamp that I ever included in an interior design project. I discovered it at the same fair, in 1984; it was his first halogen lamp, designed in 1983. For the first time, the halogen light was stripped of everything unnecessary: the moon oscillating two metres above the ground. You couldn’t stop looking at it. It ensnared you with its soft movement and beauty.
3. Porca Miseria!, 1994
In 1994, seven years after Santa & Cole was founded, we started distributing Ingo Maurer in Spain. And that’s when we discovered his company. Visiting their headquarters in Munich, Ingo would introduce us to all his collaborators with great affection: to the lady who’d been making the wings for the Lucellino light for more than 20 years, or else he’d show you his small workshop, which eventually produced the Porca Miseria! lamp, where each piece of porcelain was delicately broken. He laughed when explaining the reason for the name: ‘An Italian friend exclaimed “Porca Miseria!” when he saw it’.
4. Lucellino, 1992
At the fair in Cologne in Ingo delighted us with his installations on the Deutzer Brücke, one of the bridges that cross the city. The first year, a heart was beating in front of us, radiating light, together with the Lucellinos: his light bulb with wings and duck feathers. The second year, we were wearing masks with a photo of Philippe Starck’s face on them, and some bull horns. We were all Starcks, walking around the foggy tunnel, moving from one surprise to another and from one emotion to another. Further on, a bright sculpture in the shape of a fish with its scales exposed was getting closer to us. Everybody was looking at each other and we kept walking on, in search of the next emotion. At the end of the tunnel we found some mulled wine and soup waiting for us.
5. Zettel’z 5, 1997
A desire, a greeting, a joke, that phrase, that quote, that moment. Days, nights, parties, meetings, a breakfast, lunch, or dinner: all leave behind their written memories. Every Zettel can be different, it’s a question of putting in some humour and imagination. I had the chance to hang a Zettel in a space that was to host a political campaign. Day after day, the lamp started coming to life as it filled up with new messages, proposals, ideas, and greetings.
6. Paragaudí, 1997
We were at the Hotel de los Toreros in Madrid. We met for breakfast, and from there we drove to Toledo to visit Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Botines. Maurer had been commissioned to make a special lamp for the Caja España conference room. Ingo came down to meet us, dressed elegantly in an executive suit. He was tired; he’d spent the whole week in meetings with businessmen. When he saw he was driving with my colleague Álvaro Fontanals and me, he asked, ‘Is it only the three of us? There’s no one else joining us in a suit? I’m going upstairs to change!’
It was on that trip to León that I met ‘Ingo’; he was no longer ‘Maurer’. I already admired his work, but now I also admired his person: warm, mischievous, a bon vivant; his genius, his taste, and his irony. We were able to share his world of emotions.Ingo designed the Paragaudí lamp for the Casa Botines. A golden double sheet of metal that traverses the space, twisting elegantly and letting light pass through its cracks as though it had many eyes. I remember Ingo asking us with his smile, ‘Are they going to understand my project?’
7. Fly Candle Fly!, 1996
The first time I saw this light was at the Krizia space in Milan. They gave us 3D glasses to wear before entering the installation. Oh! We saw only hearts; in each spot of light two hearts appeared. And a multitude of candles were floating in space, reflected in a pond. We arrived there directly from the fair and were tired from seeing hundreds of stands presenting boring new products, and here at last was something with emotion! We could see that people were enjoying themselves and relaxing, beautiful and in a good mood, sharing emotions; this is always the best part of Milan.
I saw another Fly Candle Fly! installation in May 2000, in New York, a city that Ingo loves, in an old theatre in Harlem. He called it ‘Harlem Lights: A Night at the Alhambra’. With almost no electricity he created a magical atmosphere. A jazz group entertained the party, hundreds of candles were again floating in space. There was also that huge red heart, with its Lucellinos. Every corner was delicately illuminated with scenes of exquisite poetry, always with that ironic and transgressive wink. Ingo would come to give you a hug, with a jacket that he opened to wrap you up inside, giving you one of at least 50 capsules of liquid light that he’d hung inside the coat.
8. Flying Flames, 2012
In 2013 he presented Flying Flames, the LED version of the Fly Candle Fly!, but this time it never goes out. Once again, he left us speechless and bursting with emotion. With the incandescence he breaks with established norms. With the halogen, he teaches us to see it in its bare simplicity and then to dress it up. With the LED, playing once again, he shows us that it’s the new source of light.
He welcomed us to the world of LED at Euroluce 2001 with his first LED panels, a red wall full of roses emulating a painted wallpaper and fireplace. After that came everything else in ‘the LED generation’. Once again it left us speechless, but you leave the place smiling; every time you’ve learnt something, you’re inspired, and you thank him.
If a lamp is what we call an object that gives us light, Maurer flees from this traditional lamp and exploits a million alternative ideas instead. Maurer didn’t invent these sources of light, but he knows how to use them like no one else. I’d even go so far as to say that, after Edison (and not counting the light from the sun), he is the best thing that has happened to the world of light. No other lamp has generated as much emotion in me as those in the Maurer collection. In my job as object editor for Santa & Cole, the first instinct I go with is emotion. For me, Ingo Maurer is master of the emotions of light.
From that first day in front of his stand, every time I’ve seen Ingo I’ve tried to say hello—just for the pleasure of being by his side, to catch his energy, his elegance, his humour, and his enthusiasm for each new project that he’s involved with. He tells you about it all with the same excitement as the first day he started designing his own lamps and started his business—which, as he says, is the part he likes the least; when he has to put aside his creative passion.
I’ve often waited until the mass of people have finished greeting him, to find him in a good moment. I remember with particular affection the last time we met, in 2018, in his showroom in New York. This time it was Ingo who removed himself from the crowd to greet me, walking forward in his iconic red shoes. I think I blushed.