Akari Light Sculptures (1951)

Published on December 18, 2015

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In 1951 the Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi began to design the Akari Light Sculptures, a group of works handcrafted out of shoji paper that eventually comprised over 100 luminaires – table, floor and ceiling lamps.

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He chose the name ‘akari’ for these objects, a word that means ‘light’ in Japanese, connoting both illumination and physical lightness.

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Akari Light Sculptures by Isamu Noguchi are considered icons of 1950s modern design. Designed by Noguchi beginning in 1951 and handmade for a half century by the original manufacturer in Gifu, Japan, the paper lanterns are a harmonious blend of Japanese handcraft and modernist form.

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The lamps are created from handmade washi paper and bamboo ribbing, supported by a metal frame.

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‘The light of Akari is like the light of the sun filtered through the paper of shoji. The harshness of electricity is thus transformed through the magic of paper back to the light of our origin – the sun – so that its warmth may continue to fill our rooms at night.’

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The oeuvre of Japanese-American artist and designer Isamu Noguchi is unusually multi-faceted. Since 2002, the Vitra Design Museum has produced re-editions of his designs in cooperation with the Isamu Noguchi Foundation in New York. Some of these pieces now belong to the Vitra Collection.

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