Armchair, 'How high the moon', steel, designed by Shiro Kuramata, Japan, 1986, made by Vitra, Germany, 2003
A Tokyo-based designer, Shiro Kuramata was widely influential in Japan and Europe during the 1970s and 80s. Specialising in the design of furniture and interiors his aesthetic combined Japanese simplicity and clarity with a European-like preoccupation with non-traditional materials and forms. Kuramata was particularly interested in experimenting with plastics and metal and with creating furniture and lighting that not only blurred the boundaries between function and 'art', but also transcended cultural divisions. Consequently many of Kuramata's designs are both functioning object and sculpture and it was his play with this duality that impacted on such designers as Philippe Starck, Ron Arad and Marc Newson.
Kuramata's prolific, but short, career included the design of many boutique interiors for Issey Miyake, collaboration with the Memphis group in the early 1980s and individual object designs for specific clients and projects in Japan and Europe. Since his death in 1991 a number of his designs have achieved 'iconic' status. These include his terrazzo tables for Memphis, 1983, 'How high the moon', 1986 and the superb, clear acrylic 'Miss Blanche', 1988 which was produced in a limited edition and now fetches prices in excess of $50,000 at auction.
'How high the moon', named after a jazz piece by Duke Ellington, is a poetic abstraction of a traditional armchair whose shape is further 'dematerialised' by the planes of see-through mesh of which it is constructed. The chair is produced in a limited edition by Vitra and is a highly appropriate example of this important 20th century designer's work for the collection. Stylistically the chair expresses links to a Japanese abstractionist sensibility as well as referencing western designers' mid 1980s interest in minimalist metal furniture, reflected, of course, in Marc Newson's 'Lockheed Lounge' of 1986.
Designed by Shiro Kuramata, Japan, 1986. Made to order by Vitra, Germany, 2003.