Brancusi left behind a selection of plaster molds for casting his bronze sculptures, which are still executed at Susse Fondeur, one of the many foundries he used in his lifetime and the only remaining foundry in France with expertise in sand-casting, a process that uses sand to create the molds, Gleason said.
Despite that continuity, some consider the notion of posthumous bronzes inimical to how Brancusi worked, and therefore closer to a reproduction than an original artwork.
“Brancusi worked on each sculpture, even in an edition,” said Elizabeth Szancer, an art advisor and the curator of the Ronald S. Lauder Collection. Lauder, a cosmetics magnate and president of the World Jewish Congress, is one of the few Americans to collect Brancusi in-depth. “He tweaked it with each task of producing the sculpture…so the artists’ hand played a very large role in the result,” she said, adding she did not think Lauder would consider a posthumously produced work of the same artistic value (“much more mechanical,” she said) as a lifetime one, of which there are only around 220, according to Gleason.
For conceptual artists such as Flavin, whose work was itself a response to the fetishization of the hand of the individual artist, that question is moot. Instead, collectors be might concerned over whether the lamps in their works were “originals”—say, green lamps from the stockpile of 600 he accumulated in his lifetime from the Sylvania company, or those retained by people who worked with him earlier in his career, such as Paula Cooper, whose stash of bulbs is mentioned in a 2013 New Yorker story.
Bell said there is a supply of lamps “still being produced in the exact same fashion” in the palette Flavin used in his lifetime. Replacement lamps can be bought through Zwirner’s website for $11 to $70 per piece.
“Old fixtures should be replaced anyhow,” Bell said. “If you own a fixture that dates from ’68 or ’69, they look terrible. They’re all banged up. You should replace them; there’s no fetishizing of the fixture.”
Last year at Frieze Masters in London, David Zwirner’s booth included Flavin’s first fluorescent sculpture: the diagonal of May 25, 1963 (to Constantin Brancusi)
(1963), a single neon tube in golden yellow, placed at a 45-degree angle to the floor. The gold color, said Bell, refers to
icons, who are often haloed in gold in paintings and mosaics.
“It proposed an endlessness,” said Bell. “It had an infinite potential to go on forever.”
In that sense, it was emblematic of the careers of the two artists themselves.