Shiro Kuramata - Design New York Wednesday, June 11, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Ishidate Residence, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

  • Exhibited

    "Early Housing of Shiro Kuramata," Gallery SIGN, Tokyo, May 23-June 28, 2009

  • Literature

    Shiro Kuramata 1967-1987, Tokyo, 1988, p. 40 for the "64 Book Shelves" example
    Shiro Kuramata 1934-1991, exh. cat., Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 1996, p. 137, fig. 3 for the "64 Book Shelves" example
    Yasuko Seki, Kuramata Shiro Ettore Sottsass, Tokyo, 2010, p. 121, fig. 06 for the "64 Book Shelves" example
    Deyan Sudjic, Shiro Kuramata: Essays & Writings, London, 2013, p. 182 for the "64 Book Shelves" example
    Deyan Sudjic, Shiro Kuramata: Catalogue of Works, London, 2013, p. 271, no. 122 for the "64 Book Shelves" example

  • Catalogue Essay

    Two Unique Works by Shiro Kuramata for Tetsuo Ishidate, Tokyo

    The following two works formed part of Shiro Kuramata’s 1970 commission for the Tokyo apartment of Tetsuo Ishidate, a renowned Japanese actor and close friend of the designer. (Deyan Sudjic, Shiro Kuramata: Catalogue of Works, London, 2013, p. 230, no. 096). That same year, prior to designing Ishidate’s apartment, Kuramata continued work on his series, “Furniture with Drawers Vol. 2, no. 6” (Sudjic, 2013, ibid, p. 257, no. 070), which relates closely to the present bookcase.

    The “Furniture with Drawers” series can be considered the inspiration for this bookcase, comprising 49 shelves, which in turn is the progenitor of the later "64 Book Shelves" (Sudjic, 2013, ibid, p. 257, no. 070), produced by Kato Furniture, Japan, in 1972. The present bookcase follows the same format of individual sections that run in an opposite directional gradation to the design for “Furniture with Drawers Vol.2, no. 6”. The varying configurations of the above three designs simultaneously suggest an increase and decrease in scale, an expanding or shrinking of space; engendering an oneiric state where objects can exist contiguously within the diminishing and amplified compartments.

    Kuramata remarks “I believe that a chest of drawers is the kind of furniture that most strongly communicates with man, even psychologically” (Shitsunai, January, 1972). The physical factors of design are almost tertiary to Kuramata, as he wishes only to suggest the material; it is communication and psychological effects that appear to be far more intriguing concepts to him. Even though the compartments of the bookcase are not closed by drawer fronts, they each have a discrete continuity in the differentiation of their scale; the presence of objects would then conceal their respective spaces. The permanence of the design is exemplified by its simplicity, and the gradation of the grid suggests the infinite.

  • Artist Biography

    Shiro Kuramata

    Japanese • 1934 - 1991

    Shiro Kuramata is widely admired for his ability to free his designs from gravity and use materials in ways that defied convention. After a restless childhood, his ideas of being an illustrator having been discouraged, Kuramata discovered design during his time at the Teikoku Kizai Furniture Factory in Arakawa-ku in 1954. The next year he started formal training at the Department of Interior Design at the Kuwasawa Design Institute. His early work centered on commercial interiors and window displays. In 1965, at the age of 31, he opened his own firm: Kuramata Design Office.

    Throughout his career he found inspiration in many places, including the work of Italian designers (particularly those embodying the Memphis style) and American conceptual artists like Donald Judd, and combined such inspirations with his own ingenuity and creativity. His dynamic use of materials, particularly those that were transparent, combination of surfaces and awareness of the potential of light in design led him to create objects that stretched structural boundaries and were also visually captivating. These qualities are embodied in his famous Glass Chair (1976).

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Unique bookcase, designed for the Ishidate Residence, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

Painted wood.
78 1/2 x 78 x 11 1/2 in. (199.4 x 198.1 x 29.2 cm)

$50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for $62,500

Contact Specialist
Meaghan Roddy
Head of Sale, New York
+ 1 212 940 1266


New York Auction 11 June 2014 11am