Ingo Maurer (1932 - 2019)

John Hill, Katinka Corts
22. October 2019
Ingo Maurer with his Lucellino Wall Lamp from 1992 (Photo: Tom Vack)

On Monday, October 21, 2019, German industrial designer Ingo Maurer died at the age of 87. Maurer's designs of lamps and light installations are considered groundbreaking and are famous around the world.

His designs are found in the collections of the most important museums concerned with design, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Consider his popular Bulb from 1966, which pushed him to launch his eponymous company; YaYaHo, the low-voltage halogen system designed by Ingo Maurer and team in 1984; and Zettel'z, a pendant lamp from 1997 made with 80 sheets of paper, some of them blank for users to modify. Maurer received numerous prestigious awards, including the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany and the 2011 Compasso d'Oro for his life's work.

Born on the island of Reichenau on Lake Constance, Maurer left for the United States in 1960 to apprentice as a typesetter and to study graphic design. He worked in the US as a graphic designer until 1963, when he returned to Munich. In the ensuing decades he traveled a lot: to Japan, Brazil, the USA, and other countries. He had a very special relationship with New York City, where he lived for many years. When asked where he felt at home, though, he said, "Home is a place where I feel comfortable and inspired. That can be in New York, Paris, Tokyo, São Paulo, or Munich. I am at home when I am with good friends. I need provocation. that gives me the strength to be creative."

First, the idea of an object arises in my head — like a dream. Only in the next step I search together with my team for ways for the realization. Sometimes it takes decades until the technical developments make our imagination possible.

Ingo Maurer

The lighting concept for several Munich subway stations, including Westfriedhof, was designed by Ingo Maurer. (Photo: Martin Falbisoner [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Together with his longtime employees, Maurer developed iconic luminaires at the interface between utility and art. Accordingly, it was necessary to find special solutions that would captivate and touch people with lightness and spontaneity. In some cases, the people who obtained his lamps were actively involved in their designs, as in the blank sheets of paper included with Zettel'z. Maurer's decision to set up his own company in 1966 ensured his vision could be carried through without compromise and made it possible for small series. To this day, all Ingo Maurer lights are manufactured in Munich.

Ingo Maurer Intimate: Design or What? will open at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich on November 15. The exhibition will provide insight into his work and accompany the site-specific Pendulum he installed in the museum's rotunda.

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