Isamu Noguchi - The Collector: Icons of Design New York Tuesday, December 16, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private collection, Boston
    Skinner Auctioneers, Boston, "Art Glass & Lamps, Arts & Crafts, Art Deco & Modern," October 19 1996, lot 918
    Private collection, Florida
    Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, New York, "20-21st Century Design Art," May 22, 2002, lot 73
    Acquired from the above by the present owner
    Doyle, New York, "Doyle at Home: Fine Furniture, Decorations and Paintings," October 8, 2003, lot 151
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Literature

    "In the Showrooms, Report on an Improved Situation: The New Furniture," Interiors, March 1949, pp. 130-31
    "Free form for Furniture", Architectural Forum, April 1949, p. 212
    Nancy Grove and Diane Botnick, The Sculpture of Isamu Noguchi, 1924–1979: A Catalogue, New York, 1980, p. 147, cat. no. 811
    Cara Greenberg, Mid-Century Modern, New York, 1984, p. 67 for the sofa
    Lisa Phillips and David Hanks, High Styles: Twentieth-Century American Design, New York, 1985, pp. 152-53
    George Nelson, ed., The 20th Century: Landmarks in Design, Chairs, New York, 1994, p. 33, 152-153
    Franz Schulze, Building a Masterpiece, exh. cat., Milwaukee Art Museum, New York, 2001, p. 147
    Alexander von Vegesack, et al., eds., Isamu Noguchi, Sculptural Design, exh. cat., Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, 2001, pp. 122-123, 125
    Ghislane Wood, Surreal Things, Surrealism and Design, London, 2007, p. 99

  • Catalogue Essay

    Phillips would like to thank The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum for their assistance cataloguing the present lot.

    Mirroring the organic forms of Noguchi’s sculptures and installations of the same period, the present “Cloud” sofa and ottoman embody the biomorphism Noguchi sought to express in his work. George Nelson, then Creative Director of The Herman Miller Furniture Company, described Noguchi’s “Cloud” designs as “neither homey like the handicraft object nor rigid like the machine form – but amorphous and flowing like living tissue.” The “Cloud” sofa and ottoman appeared in Architectural Forum (April 1949) as Noguchi’s ideal concept for furniture design: “It should be, he says, ‘a soft rock.’” Although Interiors (March 1949) gave it qualified praise—“screwballish to some, of extraordinary plastic beauty to others”—the “Cloud” became an iconic example of the sculptural design of the late 1940s. Despite the many press mentions received, however, it was never published in Herman Miller’s catalogues, nor mass-produced; the “Cloud” was made-to-order between 1949 and 1951.

    Of only six sofa and ottoman sets known to have been made, the present lot is one of four examples of each known to be extant. One set is included in the permanent collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and one sofa in the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany. One set was purchased by a private collector from Christie’s East, “Important Design”, November 27, 1999. One ottoman was purchased from Wright “Design,” December 12, 2013. The fourth set, offered here, was acquired by the present owner from Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, “20-21st Century Design Art”, May 22, 2002.


Rare “Cloud-form” sofa, model no. IN-70, and "Cloud-form" ottoman, model no. IN-71

circa 1948
Birch, fabric.
Sofa: 28 3/8 x 117 1/2 x 49 in. (72.1 x 298.5 x 124.5 cm);
ottoman:15 x 51 1/4 x 27 in. (38.1 x 130.2 x 68.6 cm)

Produced by The Herman Miller Furniture Company, USA.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $422,500

Contact Specialist
Alexander Payne
Worldwide Head of Design
+44 20 7318 4052

Alex Heminway
Director of Design
New York
+1 212 940 1268

The Collector: Icons of Design

New York Auction 16 December 2014 5pm