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An Italian Master’s Sculptural Lamps Get A Bright Update

Over the course of his lifetime, self-taught Italian lighting designer Gino Sarfatti created over 700 lamps, chandeliers, and “light fittings,” as he called them. He was obsessed with finding poetic and sculptural ways to illuminate and, with roots in engineering, experimented constantly with new forms of wiring, switches, and reflectors. Were he alive today, he’d be innovating with LEDs–the eco-friendly, longer-lasting alternative to traditional incandescent bulbs.

Flos, the cutting-edge light manufacturer for which Sarfatti once worked, recently decided to modernize a series of the Italian master’s designs using LED technology. Flos revamped five lamps he made between 1951 and 1971, challenging its designers to leave the lights’ physical and outward design intact while improving functionality. The resulting collection, Flos’s Re-lighting Gino Sarfatti Edition No.1, has just been released at the MoMA Store.

Image: Courtesy of Archivio Storico FLOS

Since LEDs emit more heat than traditional bulbs, Flos designers had to find ways to control temperature and met this challenge in various ways. They often changed the location of the light source, or added a light temperature setting, a water cooling system, heatsinks, or dimmers. One is as simple and elegantly modern as possible: a straight stalk of light. Another looks like a curvy piece of an Alexander Calder mobile. Another seems to defy gravity by leaning at a precarious angle.

The LED was invented in 1968–and it would take decades before it was integrated into mainstream lighting solutions–but by that time, Sarfatti had retired from lighting design to pursue another hobby: rare stamp dealing, of all things, which occupied him until his death in 1984. Luckily, Flos has now picked up where he left off. Flos’s Re-lighting Gino Sarfatti Edition No.1 is available from the MoMA Design Store here.CD