Yoichi Ohira - Important Design London Wednesday, March 20, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Barry Friedman Ltd., New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2007

  • Catalogue Essay

    For over 1000 years, the Venetian lagoon has been the home to glassmakers, renowned across the world for their skill. The Japanese born artist Yoichi Ohira was inspired by a documentary to move to Italy in 1973. Captivated by the technical prowess of the maestri, Ohira quickly set aside his previous ambitions to be a glassblower. In Ohira’s words, ‘First of all, at that time in Murano, there was no place for a foreign glassblower from distant Japan. Secondly, in witnessing these master Murano glassblowers’ skill, I said to myself ‘I must give up the desire of becoming a glassblower at once’ (Rosa Barovier Mentasti, William Warmus and Suzanne Frantz, Yoichi Ohira: A Phenomenon in Glass, New York, 2002, p.15). Instead, he dedicated himself to studying the aesthetics of the medium, enrolling at the Accademia di Belle Arti. While writing his dissertation, The Aesthetics of Glass, he studied not only the objects themselves, but learned the history of the Murano community. Characterised by a ‘collective spirit’, the glass-workers and family run furnaces proved to be both close-knit and highly competitive. Though he did not join them as a glassblower, the knowledge he had gained about Murano’s heritage and his own reverence for their traditions endeared him to the glass-making community and led to many successful collaborations.

    Several of the present lots are the product of the longstanding collaboration between Ohira and the soffiatore Livio ‘Maisasio’ Serena. Having met in 1992 at the Anfora furnace, the two would continue to work side-by-side for over a decade, later joined by a second maestro, the molatore Giacomo Barbini. This group of three, alongside the Anfora glassworks owner Renzo Ferro, was referred to affectionately by Ohira as the ‘Murano Quartet’.

    This collaboration allowed Ohira to incorporate a plethora of traditional and modern techniques into his designs. Beginning with his own creation of murrine, powdered, and cane glass, Ohira would meticulously lay out the pieces for Serena to incorporate and blow them into a vessel, such as lot 78. Once cool, the piece would be carved by Barbini. Throughout these stages, Ohira oversaw every aspect of the process, continuously comparing the work to his plans. By observing how both the glass and the maestri behaved, Ohira’s designs were informed by a glassblower’s perspective and the skills of his collaborators. As the inscriptions on the present lots acknowledging Serena, Barbini and Andrea Zilio attest to, the works are undoubtedly the product of the entire workshop’s talents.

    Ohira’s œuvre draws heavily on his own knowledge of Murano’s history, traditional techniques, as well as the living heritage that his collaborators embody. Each of his works, despite their undeniably contemporary appearance, are steeped in tradition and are the culmination of not just one individual’s expertise, but that of an entire community.

  • 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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Unique 'Anello' vase, from the 'Foglie di Ninfee' series

Hand-blown glass canes with murrine, avventurina, granular and powder inserts, partial inciso and polished surface.
28.9 cm (11 3/8 in.) high
Executed by Andrea Zilio, master glassblower and Giacomo Barbini, master cutter and grinder, Anfora, Murano, Italy. Underside incised Yoichi Ohira/m° A. Zilio/m° G. Barbini/1 / 1 unico/Friday 07-10-2005/murano and with artist's cipher.

£12,000 - 18,000 

Sold for £25,000

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

Important Design

London Auction 21 March 2019