George Nakashima - Design New York Wednesday, June 11, 2008 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Carlow University (formerly Mount Mercy College), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1968

  • Catalogue Essay

    Throughout the course of his career, George Nakashima completed major interior projects for only five universities, the second to last of which was for Mount Mercy College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1968, for which the present lot was built.  Mount Mercy was known as the first Catholic liberal arts college for women in the United States, and has since been renamed Carlow University.
    For most of these institutional commissions, Nakashima’s designs branch out from those for his residential furniture and incorporate much larger scales and architectural angles as well as versatile designs which could be employed for various uses.  The present lot exhibits this resourcefulness with the design of two plank tables which, separately, can act as long consoles or tables, and together, create a monumental conference table. 
    Because the last of these five commissions for universities was in 1968, pieces of this nature in Nakashima’s
    œuvre are quite rare.

  • 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.

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Unique and monumental two-piece conference table, from Mount Mercy College, Pittsburgh, PA

ca. 1968
27 1/2 x 192 x 48 3/8 in. (69.9 x 487.7 x 122.9 cm)

$90,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $145,000


12 June 2008, 2pm
New York