George Nakashima - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Saturday, May 25, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner, 1977

  • Literature

    Mira Nakashima, Nature, Form & Spirit: The Life and Legacy of George Nakashima, New York, 2003, p. 179 for a similar example

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present desk, which combines the natural beauty of the walnut wood grain and shape with a more architectural base, was originally named the “Cross Legged Desk” in Nakashima’s 1961 Catalogue for its delicately configured legs in (Ostergard 117). By 1972, the form was still in production, now called the “Conoid Desk,” after the studio Nakashima built himself from 1957-1959 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The period of Nakashima’s career from 1957 to 1961 is marked by a turn to more assertive forms, referring back to Nakashima’s education and earlier work in architecture, which he left behind in 1942 (Ibid., 158). This desk, with its highly contrasting drawers, legs, and top, represents an individualistic variation on an earlier desk with simple, turned legs, pictured in his 1955 catalogue (Mira Nakashima 69). Typical to the larger “Conoid Line,” the desktop shape is dictated by the flow of the lines of the tree, adding fluidity to the complex angular play of the legs (Ibid., 173). The natural virtuosity of the wood grain and burl is further emphasized with a butterfly key. This simple joint has come to be recognized as a trademark of Nakashima’s craft ethos – a minimal yet decisive maker intervention in the original forms of the lumber (Ibid., 69).

  • Artist Biography

    George Nakashima

    American • 1905 - 1990

    Working out of his compound in rural New Hope, Pennsylvania, George Nakashima produced some of the most original and influential furniture designs of the post-war era. Nakashima aimed to give trees a second life, choosing solid wood over veneers and designing his furniture to highlight the inherent beauty of the wood, such as the form and grain. To this end, his tables often feature freeform edges, natural fissures and knot holes. Nakashima was an MIT-trained architect and traveled widely in his youth, gaining exposure to modernist design the world over.

    The signature style he developed was the distillation of extraordinary, diverse experiences, which led to the establishment of his furniture-making business in 1946. In particular, his practice of Integral Yoga, which he studied while working under the architect Antonin Raymond on the construction of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India, had a lasting impact on his philosophy as a designer.

    After returning to the U.S. in 1940, Nakashima's family was interned in an American concentration camp, a horrible ordeal that nevertheless introduced him to traditional Japanese joinery by way of a Nisei woodworker he met in the camp. He incorporated these techniques and also drew on American vernacular forms, such as the Windsor chair. These diverse influences have resulted in immense crossover appeal in the world of twentieth-century design collecting.

    View More Works

Property from a Private Californian Collection


'Conoid' desk

American black walnut, one East Indian rosewood butterfly key
73.6 x 157.5 x 85.7 cm. (28 7/8 x 62 x 33 3/4 in.)
Together with a copy of the original order card and certificate of authenticity from Mira Nakashima. Underside inscribed in black marker SCHILLER. Produced 1977.

HK$150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for HK$300,000

Contact Specialist
Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019