Art and Utility in the IN-62
A Rare and Important Table by Isamu Noguchi
Isamu Noguchi’s marble-top coffee table effortlessly blurs distinctions between art and design. Capturing his sculptural aesthetic, the organic form gracefully incorporates function as a supplementary aspect of Noguchi’s art. The idea of furniture as art was, at the time, a rather new concept that was fostered, at least in part, by several programs initiated by the Museum of Modern Art, New York in the 1940s to introduce good design to a wider audience.
Herman Miller, was an early supporter and producer of artist designed works. In October of 1947, the firm introduced two of Isamu Noguchi’s table designs to the market: the marble-top coffee table, model IN-62 and the Chess table, model IN-61. Directed by George Nelson at the time, Herman Miller marketed Noguchi’s designs as art furniture to an elite and fashionable clientele. The model was included in the article, titled Fashion and Function Are Combined published in The New York Herald Tribune, on Sunday, October 3rd, 1948, and a review in The New Yorker on February 12th of the following year shows that Herman Miller was marketing Noguchi’s designs through Bloomingdale’s. While the Chess table was included in Herman Miller catalogs, the present model was only included in the price lists through 1949.
“The remarkable thing about this phase of Noguchi’s activity is that while his designs are always brilliantly conceived in relation to the production process to be used, he always works as a sculptor, imparting to the most inconspicuous objects a thoroughly personal feeling.” — Herman Miller catalog, 1948
The IN-62 design was never adapted to large-scale production and therefore its appearance in the Herman Miller list was short-lived. As a result fewer than ten are known today and, like the iconic Cloud sofa and ottoman, we see variations in their construction. There are two known leg variants, one version featuring three different sculptural legs, a characteristic that Noguchi would employ for the custom dining table for Mr. & Mrs. Milton Greene in 1948 (rediscovered and sold at Wright in 2018). An example of this leg variant can been seen in a coffee table that dates to 1945 and remains in the collection of the artist’s extended family. It is also this version that is included by Herman Miller in the Bloomingdale’s showroom in 1949 which is described as having blonde legs and a copper insert.
The present model features a second leg variant with three matching fin-shaped legs, a form that would become a defining quality of Noguchi’s Rudder dining suite which appeared in the Herman Miller catalog in 1948. Further, variation among the IN-62s can be found in the slight curvature of the table tops, the material of the bowl insert, as well as in the marble selection which varies from pink, to white, and shades of gray — no two examples are exactly alike.
In this way, Noguchi’s marble top coffee tables stand as unique works of art, as individual sculptures with the added value of function. The few that are known today are a testament to the modern and artistic vision of not only Isamu Noguchi but the collectors who appreciated his art and acquired it for their homes.
The present table comes from the collection of Laurence and Ann Carton from Lake Forest, Illinois. Mrs. Ann Carton was known for her garden which is documented in the Smithsonian Archives of American Gardens. She and her husband purchased their Lake Forest home in the 1950s. Mrs. Carton worked with architect Arthur Myhrum to renovate the home and it is believed that it was through Myhrum, that she acquired this table. This special IN-62 was an integral part of the Carton home and her children don’t remember a time without it.