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.

left: Documentation from the Herman Miller Archives about the introduction of Noguchi's Chess table and Marble top table; right: An example, whereabouts unknown of the IN-62 in the Herman Miller showroom, Los Angeles, 1954

“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.  

Isamu Noguchi Custom Dining Table for Mr. & Mrs. Milton Greene, 1948-1949. Sold at Wright in 2018.

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. 

Mr. & Mrs. Ann Carton's son with the present lot, 1958. Photo by family friend, and noted architectural photographer, Arthur Siegel. 

Sculpture can be a vital source in our everyday life if projected into communal usefulness.

Isamu Noguchi

Isamu Noguchi 1904–1988

Isamu Noguchi was the son of Yone Noguchi, a Japanese poet, and Léonie Gilmour, an American writer. He was born in Los Angeles in 1904 but lived in Japan from the age of two until 1918 when he returned to the United States to attend school in Indiana. In 1922 Noguchi moved to New York to study pre-medicine at Columbia University. He also took night courses in sculpture with Onorio Ruotolo and soon after, he left Columbia in pursuit of a career in the arts.

In 1927 Noguchi received a Guggenheim Fellowship for a trip to Paris and the Far East. For six months in Paris, he worked in the studio of Constantin Brancusi and his own work became more abstract as Noguchi explored working with stone, wood and sheet metal. Noguchi returned to New York and in 1929 he met R. Buckminster Fuller and Martha Graham, colleagues and friends with whom he would later collaborate. In 1938 Noguchi was commissioned to complete a work for the Associated Press building in the Rockefeller Center in New York. Marking his first public sculpture, this work garnered attention and recognition for the artist in the United States.

Auction Results Isamu Noguchi

ISAMU NOGUCHI, Important and Unique Dining Table for Mr. & Mrs. Milton Greene |

Isamu Noguchi

Important and Unique Dining Table for Mr. & Mrs. Milton Greene

estimate: $1,000,000–1,500,000
result: $1,653,000
ISAMU NOGUCHI, table, model #IN-62 |

Isamu Noguchi

table, model #IN-62

estimate: $70,000–90,000
result: $630,000
ISAMU NOGUCHI, pedestal |

Isamu Noguchi


estimate: $3,000–5,000
result: $320,500
ISAMU NOGUCHI, Rare and Important Chess table, model IN-61 |

Isamu Noguchi

Rare and Important Chess table, model IN-61

estimate: $150,000–200,000
result: $233,000
ISAMU NOGUCHI, rare and important Rudder dining suite from the Hasting Estate |

Isamu Noguchi

rare and important Rudder dining suite from the Hasting Estate

estimate: $150,000–200,000
result: $182,500
ISAMU NOGUCHI, Rare cloud ottoman, model IN-71 |

Isamu Noguchi

Rare cloud ottoman, model IN-71

estimate: $150,000–200,000
result: $170,500
ISAMU NOGUCHI, Rare Rudder dining suite |

Isamu Noguchi

Rare Rudder dining suite

estimate: $150,000–200,000
result: $161,000
ISAMU NOGUCHI, Prismatic table |

Isamu Noguchi

Prismatic table

estimate: $70,000–90,000
result: $132,000
ISAMU NOGUCHI, Chess table, model IN-61 |

Isamu Noguchi

Chess table, model IN-61

estimate: $50,000–70,000
result: $97,750
ISAMU NOGUCHI, Pierced Table (IN82-2090) |

Isamu Noguchi

Pierced Table (IN82-2090)

estimate: $40,000–50,000
result: $96,000
ISAMU NOGUCHI, Pierced Table (IN-82-2090) |

Isamu Noguchi

Pierced Table (IN-82-2090)

estimate: $40,000–50,000
result: $86,400
ISAMU NOGUCHI, Shaft & Root (IN82-2101) |

Isamu Noguchi

Shaft & Root (IN82-2101)

estimate: $70,000–90,000
result: $84,000