Nakashima and the International Paper Company

In 1980 George Nakashima was commissioned by the International Paper Company, one of the largest paper companies in the world, to design furnishings for their headquarters in New York. Like his groundbreaking interior for the Krosnick family, this public project pushed the limits of Nakashima’s creativity as he was given the opportunity to design on a monumental scale for the company’s expansive offices. The collection was comprised of several impressive and large-scale works, including screens, room dividers, coffee tables and cabinets.

Drawing of the floor plan for the Board Chairman's Dining Room by George Nakashima, 1980

The present lot comes from this important commission. It was included in the Board Chairman’s dining room. Measuring more than twelve feet in length, it is one of the longest cabinets Nakashima ever made. This exceptional work is further distinguished by its Asa-no-ha sliding doors. The intricate pattern, an abstraction of the Asian Palm, was a traditional Japanese decoration often used on Shoji screens in wealthy households. In the late 1960s, Nakashima began incorporating the Asa-no-ha pattern into his furniture and lighting designs. The complex pattern featuring twelve pieces of wood joined by hand was special ordered and made by skilled craftsmen at a workshop in Japan. Very few examples of Nakashima designs feature Asa-no-ha doors. 

Drawing of the cabinet by George Nakashima, 1980

This cabinet featured in Interior Design Magazine, 1981

It requires a genuine fight to produce one well designed object of relatively permanent value.

—George Nakashima

George Nakashima 1905–1990

George Nakashima was born in Spokane, Washington in 1905. He attended the University of Washington where he excelled in architecture courses and was awarded a scholarship to study at the Ecole Americaine des Beaux-Arts in Fontainebleau. Nakashima completed his master’s degree from MIT in 1930, and worked for a brief time as a mural painter before losing his job during the depression. Nakashima sold his car, moved to Paris and then to Tokyo in 1934. In Japan, he worked at the architectural firm of Antonin Raymond where he was exposed to the Japanese folk art tradition. In 1937, Nakashima traveled to India to supervise the construction of Golconde, a dormitory for Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

Nakashima returned to the United States settling in Seattle, Washington where he worked for an architect and constructed his first furniture designs in the basement of a local Boys Club. During World War II, he and his family were sent to a Japanese internment camp in Idaho. Antonin Raymond petitioned for and attained their release under the condition that Nakashima would work on his farm in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Relocated, Nakashima began making furniture again. He produced a line for Knoll in 1946 and designed the Origins line for Widdicomb in 1957, but it is his studio works and important commissioned forms for which he is most admired.

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