What is it?
A yellow painted light bulb plugged into a lemon—one of Beuys' last great works.
In a nutshell?
It is a metaphor of the ecological balance of civilization.
What do the artists' instructions say?
"Change battery every thousand hours".
Does it work?
Unlikely, although someone has gone to the trouble of re-engineering it and making it function. Click here
What does it mean?
The viewer is led to believe that the light bulb is being powered by a lemon. The lemon has grown from storing electromagnetic radiation from sunshine through photosynthesis. Now as a detached fruit, decomposition occurs and produces energy. This energy is then transformed beyond the notions of the natural and artificial with this unexpected connection to the bulb. It is a lighthearted piece and connects with Beuys' interests in energy, warmth, and the environment. He always sought to challenge the boundaries between nature and culture and was heavily involved in the environmental movement in Germany.
Why did he make it?
It was made during the last year of his life while he was recovering from a lung ailment on the island of Capri. The principle represents an ecologically sound energy source as energy flows from the sun to the lemon and finally to the bulb, but since nature’s resources are finite, they should be used sparingly and with care. Beuys is perhaps also fantasizing about a restorative charge for his fragile disposition as well.
When was it last sold?
It last came up at auction at Phillips in June 2015 and sold for 17,222€.