Chandelier as Both Sculpture and Light

Spectacular aluminium creation conducts its own electricity.
11 April, 2017
When designer and artist Omer Arbel, the creative director for Bocci, creates his magnificent lighting sculptures, he's focused on the artistic value of the piece.
That's the case with the "44" installation at the Barbican in London, which is wrapping up a months-long presence at the multimedia arts center.
"Its sculptural quality is central to my work," says the designer, who splits his time between Berlin and Vancouver, Canada. "Most of the time, it's more successful when not illuminated."

The piece reflects a trend in lighting that moves away from the industrial aesthetic toward a more extravagantly sculptural style. That trend has seen the return of the chandelier to interior lighting preferences. The "44" installation, which is made of 300 separate aluminium components strung together for display in the Barbican foyer, evokes the romantic sense of the chandelier with the gravitas of the metal forms.
"The exploration of materials is at the heart of Arbel's practice," explained the Barbican, which features different artists with its Foyer Project installations. "By delving into their chemical, physical or mechanical properties, he discovers forms that are appropriate to the materials' intrinsic qualities."

It's not the first time that Arbel, a specialist in large-scale lighting installations, has completed a commission for the Barbican. This time, he did so by pouring molten aluminium into containers filled with rock-shaped resins. When the 300 pieces were removed from their molds, the hardened and sand cast aluminium took on a feathery, coral-like appearance that complements the foyer's own textures.
The free-poured aluminium forms were then suspended from the ceiling with a network of thin cables, allowing the entire "44" chandelier to cascade into the space as if an ocean wave were caught in midair, frozen in time, and permitted to fall only as far as the floor. Near the ceiling, the pieces almost spray from the core, but as the sculpture descends, they appear closer together at their metal-vessel base. The aluminium is light enough to achieve the designer's goals while evoking a sense of solid substance.

While the sculpture itself is striking – and as Arbel notes, successful without its illumination – the piece is still a light installation. That's been achieved in the "44" series with an ingenious approach that runs low-level current directly through the aluminium itself, eliminating the need for any electrical cables. The current powers small, pearl-like spheres that are set as jewels between the feathery cast pieces.
Bocci also is displaying the "44" lighting series at Euroluce in Milan, the premier European lighting show that runs this year from April 4 through 9. The cascading chandelier is in keeping with the central theme of the 2017 event, which focuses on how to put people back at the center of lighting design. That's being achieved by new technologies that offer more personalization and flexibility, with Bocci long at the forefront of lighting designs that explore color, texture and diffusion among characteristics of light.

The Euroluce 2017 theme explores the functionality of light, and the necessity of artificial illumination in homes and offices, while connecting it with the need for human well-being. To that end, "44" is indeed as much a celebration of sculpture and the arts, as it is the mechanism for creating light in a built space.

Yet the sculpture is so successful without illumination that collectors may want to own a "44" piece themselves. The £720 poured-aluminium forms, inspired by the gallery exhibit in a 280 mm by 330 mm size, are available from the Barbican gallery store.
Banner image: Omer Arbel