The J. Paul Getty Museum

Das Lichtrequisit

Object Details


Das Lichtrequisit


László Moholy-Nagy (American, born Hungary, 1895 - 1946)




Berlin, Germany (Place Created)




Gelatin silver print

Object Number:



24 × 18.1 cm (9 7/16 × 7 1/8 in.)


© 2014 Estate of László Moholy-Nagy / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Object Description

The Light-Space Modulator is the most spectacular and complete realization of László Moholy-Nagy’s artistic philosophy. Machine parts and mechanical structures began to appear in his paintings after his emigration from Hungary, and they are also seen in the illustrations he selected for the 1922 Buch neuer Künstler (Book of new artists), which includes pictures of motorcars and bridges as well as painting and sculpture. Many contemporary artists incorporated references to machines and technology in their work, and some, like the Russian Constructivist Vladimir Tatlin, even designed plans for fantastic structures, such as the ambitious Monument to the Third International, a proposed architectural spiral of glass and steel with moving tiers and audiovisual broadcasts. (See Tatlin's Tower.)

In the Light-Space Modulator, Moholy-Nagy was able to create an actual working mechanism. Although he censured capitalism’s inhumane use of technology, he believed it could be harnessed to benefit mankind and that the artist had an important role in accomplishing this. Moholy had made preliminary sketches for kinetic sculptures as early as 1922 and referred to the idea for a light machine in his writings, but it was not until production was financed by an electric company in Berlin in 1930 that this device was built, with the assistance of an engineer and a metalsmith. It was featured at the Werkbund exhibition in Paris the same year, along with the short film Light Display Black-White-Gray, made by Moholy-Nagy to demonstrate and celebrate his new machine.

The Light-Space Modulator is a Moholy-Nagy painting come to life: mobile perforated disks, a rotating glass spiral, and a sliding ball create the effect of photograms in motion. With its gleaming glass and metal surfaces, this piece (now in the collection of the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University) is not only a machine for creating light displays but also a sculptural object of beauty, photographed admiringly by its creator. (See also: 84.XP.912.3 and 84.XM.231.1)

Katherine Ware, László Moholy-Nagy, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995), 80 © 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum.

1984 -
Experimental Photography: The Machine Age (September 26 to December 10, 1989)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), September 26 to December 10, 1989
Vision in Motion: The Photographs of László Moholy-Nagy (June 27 to October 8, 1995)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), June 27 to October 8, 1995
Moholy-Nagy: Future Present (May 27, 2016 to June 18, 2017)
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), May 27 to September 7, 2016
  • The Art Institute of Chicago, October 2, 2016 to January 3, 2017
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles), February 12 to June 18, 2017

Ware, Katherine.In Focus: Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995), p. 80-81, plate 42, ill.