Copy of Jean Prouve's Potence Lamp (reading all the modern sciences of 1850 in 1950)
80" x 43" x 2"
Steel, wiring, lightbulb
Edition of 9 + 2 APs
Jean Prouve was a French architect and designer who came to prominence in
the early 1930s with his purist, modernist designs.
Known for his egalitarian and socially conscious design and labour
philosophies, much of Prouve's work was made for the public sector: for
hospitals, schools and offices. His furniture and buildings embodied the
democratic and humanitarian ideals of Modernism: functionality and elegance
For Copy of Jean Prouve's Potence Lamp (reading all the modern sciences of
1850 in 1950), Canadian artist Gareth Long makes an exact replica of one of
Prouve's most iconic designs, his Potence reading lamp. Replication was a
key facet of Prouve's designs. He was one of the first to develop and
advocate methods of mass production that would allow all sectors of society
access to his works.
The title of Long's work alludes to Modernism's grandiose intentions, that
carry beyond the function of the humble reading lamp. As part of a culture
of reading, education, art and science, items such as the Potence lamp were
made to shine literal and symbolic light on Modernism's potently
upward-arching passage, from its industrial beginnings in the nineteenth
century to its height in the 1950s.
Today, such Modernist design items tend to be copied and distributed
as cheap knock-off versions, quickly subsumed into commercial cultures
of mass consumption. Or (as is the case with this particular lamp),
they are remade as rare, expensive luxury items, their endless
re-imaging in digital and printed media imbuing them with an iconicity
that goes against any the philanthropic thinking of their designers.
By making a set of facsimiles of Prouve's potence lamp, Long uses
copying as a rogue mode of intervention into the circuits of commodity
capital. By diminishing the aura of exclusivity now surrounding this
piece, he recalls the designer's original intentions, and raises
questions about art's role in formations of value. Reversing the usual
understanding of art as a 'commodity form' that bestows monetary
worth, here he uses its inherent reproducibility to create a cheap
version that is more affordable than the 'real' reproduction.