Yoichi Ohira - Design Day Sale London Wednesday, April 27, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galleria Scaletta di Vetro, Milan
    Private collection, Switzerland

  • Catalogue Essay

    Il vetro di Ohira

    The extraordinary work of Yoichi Ohira has for over two decades caused an unusual phenomenon not only in the Muranese glass but also in the international markets.

    Comprised of unique pieces, Ohira’s series of works were always destined for prestigious international galleries and were rarely offered in Venice. However, this did not prevent Muranese glass artists researching the work of Ohira in order to analyse its superlative technical and aesthetic peculiarities, often imitating these aspects with great admiration. Due to the great respect towards Ohira, a new vein of limited edition works were conceived, which is a testimony of the unconditional appreciation for Ohira within the complex milieu of the island furnaces. Ohira’s international success has not remained strictly within the circles of glass collectors. His works have drawn upon sophisticated tastes previously indifferent to even the most coveted of glass works. Beyond their intrinsic technical and aesthetic value, Ohira’s works have successfully blended Far Eastern culture and the Venetian artistic tradition. During the Renaissance a similar fruitful blend of cultural fusion occurred within Venice which was considered the gateway from Europe to the Orient.

    Yoichi Ohira’s passion for glass, since his early studies at the Kuwasawa Design School in Tokyo, brought him to complete his studies at the Accademia di belle Arti in Venice, where he graduated with a thesis on the Venetian glass aesthetic. In 1987, he began collaborating with the Vetreria de Majo in Murano, and there, with the assistance of one of the best glass masters on the island, he designed a limited edition of extremely refined soffiati glassworks. He succeeded in exalting the customary Venetian colours, aquamarine, turquoise blue, blue, amber as well as the Venetian techniques like filigrana and incalmo. What sets his work apart was not only the originality of forms, but particularly the courageous chromatic combinations inspired by the sublime textiles of Japanese Kimonos, together with refined details and the fusion of light and colour.

    Yoichi Ohira started his career as a freelance artist in 1991. He created exquisite and unique pieces by using the mosaic glass technique called murrina, an ancient technique dating from the II millennium BC, and then further developed by the Alexandrine and Roman glass blowers. Ohira selected the composition of polychrome glass tesserae, which, once fused by the heat of the furnace, was handed over to a trusted glass master, who picked it up with the blowpipe and modelled it. The grinding process would then be completed by the master engraver. Ohira would be present throughout the whole process to make sure that every minute detail would correspond to his original design.

    His contained and exquisite works were the result of a harmonious weave of polychrome tesserae, which often is compared to miniature stained glass. Occasionally, the artist would insert stains or pour glass in an irregular fashion which was intended to alter the geometry of the weave within white, black or opaque brown pieces. Among his latest works is an extraordinary collection of clear and bright engraved glass marking another turn in the artist’s œuvre.

    In 2011 Yoichi Ohira unexpectedly retired and left Venice and its furnaces behind. Was this an honest acknowledgement of creative fatigue or nostalgia for his native Japan? Not even those that worked alongside him for decades can explain this sudden renunciation. They, alongside his collectors, are all waiting for his return.

    Rosa Barovier Mentasti,
    March 2016

  • Artist Biography

    Yoichi Ohira

    Japanese • 1946

    Glass art – hard, fragile, cold and often heavy – is not typically designed to be handled. Yoichi Ohira's luminous blown glass vessels, however, offer an exception to this trend. They are small and light enough to be turned in one's hands like a Wunderkammer specimen, inviting the viewer to admire his abstracted design vocabulary of gemstones, polished ivory, veined rocks, shimmering water, agate, moss and lichens. Ohira has been compared to Emile Gallé for his ability to emulate the natural world in glass. Comparisons may also be drawn to Jean Dunand's bronze vessels, Japanese rokusho patina and Otto Natzler's volcanic glazes – an impressive range of media to be translated into glass.

    Yoichi Ohira graduated from the Kuwasawa Design School, Tokyo in 1969. Shortly thereafter he took up a glassblowing apprenticeship at the Kagami Crystal Company, Ltd. In 1973 Ohira moved to Venice to study at the Accademia di Belle Arti; he graduated in 1978 earning the highest possible grade for his thesis, "The Aesthetics of Glass." In the late 1980s Ohira began collaborating with Murano glassmakers, earning the "Premio Selezione" of the Premio Murano in 1987.

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Property from an Important European Collection


Unique 'Murrine con fili orrizzontali e fili verticali' vase

Hand-blown glass canes with powder inserts, partial battuto and partial inciso surface.
25 cm (9 7/8 in.) high, 20 cm (7 7/8 in.) diameter
Executed by Livio Serena, master glassblower, and Giacomo Barbini, master cutter and grinder, Anfora, Murano, Italy. Underside of base incised with Yoichi Ohira/m° L. Serena/m° G. Barbini/1 / 1 unico/Thursday 06-2-2003/murano and artist's cipher.

£12,000 - 18,000 

Sold for £23,750

Contact Specialist
Madalena Horta e Costa
Head of Sale
+44 20 7318 4019

Design Day Sale

London Auction 28 April 2016