Auction Content

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
SHIRO KURAMATA (1934-1991)
SHIRO KURAMATA (1934-1991)
SHIRO KURAMATA (1934-1991)
1 More
SHIRO KURAMATA (1934-1991)
4 More
This lot will be removed to Christie’s Park Royal.… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
SHIRO KURAMATA (1934-1991)

A pair of 'How High the Moon' armchairs

SHIRO KURAMATA (1934-1991)
A pair of 'How High the Moon' armchairs
retailed in Japan by IDEE and in Europe by Vitra, nickel-plated expanded steel mesh
38½ high x 37 ¼ wide x 32 in. deep (72.4 x 94.5 x 81 cm.)
Designed 1986, these examples executed circa 1990s.

Examples of Shiro Kuramata's 'How High the Moon' manufactured by Vitra are included in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Vitra Design Museum, Weil-am Rhein, Germany, The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York.
Private Collection, Europe.
Shiro Kuramata 1967-1987, Tokyo 1988, cover and pp. 98-99, 101.
Shiro Kuramata 1934-1991, exh. cat., Tokyo, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, 2000, pl. 15, unpaged.
D. Sudjic, Shiro Kuramata, Essays & Writings, vol. 1, London 2013, p. 102 for a drawing, p. 103, 114, 139, 140 (a drawing illustrated).
D. Sudjic, Shiro Kuramata, Catalogue of Works, vol. 2, London 2013, p. 340, no. 445, p. 346.
Special notice

This lot will be removed to Christie’s Park Royal. Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite. Our removal and storage of the lot is subject to the terms and conditions of storage which can be found at and our fees for storage are set out in the table below - these will apply whether the lot remains with Christie’s or is removed elsewhere. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Christie’s Park Royal. All collections from Christie’s Park Royal will be by pre-booked appointment only. Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: If the lot remains at Christie’s it will be available for collection on any working day 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. Lots are not available for collection at weekends.

Brought to you by

Jeremy Morrison
Jeremy Morrison

Lot Essay

Along with fashion designer and friend Issey Miyake, architects Arata Isozaki and Tadao Ando, and film-maker Akira Kurosawa, Kuramata belonged to the remarkable generation of talented young Japanese who transformed the way that their country was viewed
by the world. All of them were born just before the outbreak of the second world war and developed during a period in which the collapse of Japan’s traditionally authoritarian social order released a creative explosion that propelled Japan into the creative forefront
in cinema, literature, fashion, architecture and design. Kuramata’s work occupies a central place in this period. Specialising in the
design of furniture and interiors his aesthetic combined Japanese simplicity and clarity with a European-like preoccupation with
non-traditional materials and forms. Kuramata was particularly interested in experimenting with plastics and metal and with creating furniture and lighting that not only blurred the boundaries between function and ‘art’, but also transcended cultural divisions.
From 1976 he created a series of radical shop interiors for Issey Miyake, however, almost all of the 400+ interiors he designed, and
for which he was well-known for during his lifetime, sadly no longer exist. One rare survival, the Kiyotomo sushi bar in Tokyo, will form
part of the collection of the M+ Museum in Hong Kong, due to open in 2019.

Since his death at the tragically early age of 56 in 1991, a number of his designs have achieved ‘iconic’ status. These include his
terrazzo tables for Memphis, 1983, the superb, clear acrylic of ‘Miss Blanche’, 1988, and the current lot, ‘How High the Moon’, of 1986.

Many of Kuramata’s designs are both functioning object and sculpture, neither western nor Asian, but which has a remarkable
creative power as well as a sense of endless invention. Kuramata’s work was clearly modern in the way that it used materials, and
specifically Japanese in its simplicity and elegance. Kuramata was always prepared to experiment. He explored the potential of commonly-used materials as if they were precious, using humble acrylic or chipboard, or the kind of steel mesh used to reinforce
plaster. It is the exploration of the properties of this steel mesh, always intended to remain invisible beneath the surface, which gave
reality to his ‘How High the Moon’ armchair. Kuramata referenced American culture for the titles of numerous works to include Miss
Blanche, the character from A Street Car named Desire, and this design which gained it‘s name from the jazz standard recorded by
numerous singers from Ella Fitzgerald to Duke Ellington.

The model, also available as a two-seater, is a poetic abstraction of a traditional armchair whose shape is further ‘dematerialised’ by
the planes of see-through mesh of which it is constructed. It plays with one of western furniture’s most iconic typologies – the bulky
upholstered armchair – and reimagines it in an almost dematerialised form. It is both light and transparent, while being cold and strong, and sits somewhere between a piece of furniture and a work of sculpture. The narrative of the piece revolves around surface rather than structure. As Kuramata noted, the piece ‘retains the form of an armchair, yet deprived of volume. As well as being something physically and visibly light, through which the wind can blow, it becomes something which is both existing and not existing at the same time’. Lacking any framework it can be viewed as the ultimate work of minimalist design.

More from Masterpieces of Design & Photography

View All
View All