LAMA BLOG

Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Utility, Simplicity, and Integrity

September 27, 2018

While many of his contemporaries celebrated the new possibilities of Modernist home design, George Nakashima rejected the style for what saw as an “imposed egotism.” He became a leading voice in the midcentury craft movement, championing the holistic practices of older, richer furniture traditions.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

George Nakashima, Coffee table, 1968
September 30, 2018 Modern Art and Design Auction

While in Japan early in his career, Nakashima studied under an American architect who had worked with Frank Lloyd Wright and shared his iconic idea the form should always follow function. Nakashima also held a particular admiration and fondness for Shaker design methods, that emphasized utility, simplicity, and integrity.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

George Nakashima, Conoid dining chairs (8), 1965
September 30, 2018 Modern Art and Design Auction

Four designs presented in the Sunday, September 30, 2018 Modern Art & Design auction comes from one family who had an early appreciation for the asymmetry of Nakashima’s work. What makes each piece so precious is its basic sensitivity to the natural character of its free-edged wood. Each knot and grain comes alive as it’s set against the clean lines of Nakashima’s forms. The artist firmly believed that design should accommodate its materials and not the other way around as is often the case. Nakashima declared that “each plank can have only one ideal use” and that it is the task of the skilled woodworker to expose “its true potential.”

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

George Nakashima, Dining table, 1965
September 30, 2018 Modern Art and Design Auction

As a set, these four designs give us a glimpse of what a well-designed, well-balanced life might look life in Nakashima’s imagination. I cherish the idea of a very simple existence in which only these pieces comprise the total of my worldly possessions. Oh how this might untangle the stressful web of passive maximalism!

George Nakashima, Hanging wall case with free edge, 1956
September 30, 2018 Modern Art and Design Auction


LOT INFORMATION:

Lot 22
George Nakashima
Conoid dining chairs (8)
Walnut
Studio, executed 1965
Each: 35.25″ x 20.75″ x 20″
Together with copy of Nakashima studio order card dated May 8, 1965
Provenance: Ruth and Leon Lowenstern, Vineland, New Jersey (acquired directly from the Nakashima studio, 1965); Thence by descent

Estimate: $30,000 – $50,000
September 30, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 23
George Nakashima
Dining table
Walnut
Studio, executed 1965
28.875″ x 90″ x 41.75″
Together with copy of Nakashima studio order card dated May 8, 1965
Provenance: Ruth and Leon Lowenstern, Vineland, New Jersey (acquired directly from the Nakashima studio, 1965); Thence by descent

Estimate: $20,000 – $30,000
September 30, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 24
George Nakashima
Coffee table
Walnut
Studio, designed 1968
15.25″ x 56.25″ x 43″
Together with letter of authenticity from the Nakashima studio
Provenance: Ruth and Leon Lowenstern, Vineland, New Jersey

Estimate: $25,000 – $35,000
September 30, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 26
George Nakashima
Hanging wall case with free edge
Walnut and pandanus cloth
Studio, executed 1956
16.125″ x 84″ x 15.5″
Together with copy of Nakashima studio order card dated December 5, 1956 and payment receipt
Provenance: Ruth and Leon Lowenstern, Vineland, New Jersey (acquired directly from the Nakashima studio, 1956); Thence by descent

Estimate: $15,000 – $20,000
September 30, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

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