Design Masterworks 17 November 2016

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George Nakashima

Important and Rare Minguren coffee table

USA, 1977
redwood root burl, American black walnut
61¼ w x 53 d x 15¼ h in (156 x 135 x 39 cm)

result: $161,000

estimate: $150,000–200,000

An exceptionally figured solid redwood slab top with sap grain detail, numerous fissures, burls, free edges and four walnut butterflies to underside. Client name to underside: [Hoffman]. Sold with a copy of the original order card and invoice and a letter of authentication from Mira Nakashima.

provenance: Acquired directly from the artist | John Hoffman, Pennsylvania | Wright, Important 20th Century Design, 3 December 2006, Lot 348 | Private Collection, New York
literature: George Nakashima: Full Circle, Ostergard, pg. 133, 134 discuss Minguren I forms

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George Nakashima


Nakashima’s collection of kiln-dried lumber in a vertical storage shed, 1962

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.

Beauty and the greatest consciousness exist in a metaphysical world. Science and technology can only approximate without really touching this world. It is a world of great possibility, stemming from different roots and informed by a consciousness yet to be. Craft is part of this phenomenon. Craft and low technology can add to the reality and truth of a better world.

—George Nakashima