Frank Gehry : Fish Lamps

February 2013

by Susannah Tantemsapya
© Frank Gehry. Courtesy of the artist and Gagossian Gallery. Photography by Joshua White /

Frank Gehry’s latest series Fish Lamps opened in congruent exhibitions at Gagosian galleries in Los Angeles and Paris this January. Created in 2012, these sculpted pieces are a more complex take on his original objects created in 1984. The collection is split between both cities.

In 1983, the Formica Corporation commissioned Frank Gehry to build objects out of a new plastic laminate called ColorCore. While working with this unfamiliar material, the architect accidentally shattered a fragment, resulting in numerous shards that resembled fish scales. This evolved into fabricating Frank Gehry: Unique Lamps, which first exhibited at Gagosian in 1984. Over the next two years, over 30 lamps were created.
Constructing its shape from a wooden model, wire armature is stretched over it, then cut to remove the model and resoldered back together. The shards are individually glued on the armature, employing irregular pieces to overlap as scales. Incandescent light emanates through the center of the fish. One encounters a soft, fiery glow throughout the darkness of the gallery space. 

Gehry created the Los Angeles exhibition design, a natural extension from his architectural role in
Ken Price’s recent retrospective at LACMA. The environment is quiet, contemplative and magical.
The objects range in size and position; meandering from the floor to the wall to several lamps
suspended from the ceiling and back down again. An adjacent, well-lit room opens up to his 2012
Fish Lamp Sketches, giving insight into this creative process.

Gehry envisioned fish as “a perfect form,” and has repeated this depiction in numerous projects
since the first lamps were created. The stillness of his 2012 rendition is a thoughtful exploration of
nature, completely removed from the distractions of quotidian life.

Frank Gehry was born in Toronto in 1929. He studied architecture at the University of Southern California and urban planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. His drawings, models, designs, and sculpture have been exhibited in major museums throughout the world. Among his most celebrated buildings are the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany (1989); the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain, (1997); and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles (2003). Awards include the Pritzker Architecture Prize (1989); the Wolf Foundation Prize in Arts (1992); the Praemium Imperiale in Architecture from Japan Art Association (1992); the Dorothy
and Lillian Gish Prize (1994); the National Medal of Arts (1998); the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects (1999); the Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (2000); and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Americans for the Arts (2000). "Frank Gehry, Architect," the most comprehensive exhibition of his work to date, was presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2001. Gehry's latest building, the Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation in the Bois du Boulogne, Paris, will be completed in 2013. The first Fish Lamps were shown in "Frank Gehry: Unique Lamps" in 1984 at the former Robertson Boulevard location of Gagosian Los Angeles. Gehry lives and works in Los Angeles.

© Frank Gehry. Courtesy of the artist and Gagossian Gallery. Photography by Joshua White /

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