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Shiro Kuramata

Do you know Shiro Kuramata?

Shiro Kuramata, active in space and furniture design from the mid-1960s until 1991, is one of the most important Japanese designers of the 20th century. The light, ephemeral, poetic world he created is unique and very different from either Western design or traditional Japanese. His work had a major impact not only in Japan but also internationally.


The majority of Kuramata's spaces are retail stores. As is typical of commercial facilities, they are renovated after two or three years, and only a few are still in existence today. Although Kuramata had a Bauhaus-like education in furniture design, he was strongly influenced by art. In particular, he was greatly influenced by surrealism and the contemporary art of Donald Judd and others, which expressed an unrealistic world.


A turning point for Kuramata was his participation in Memphis, a design movement started in 1981 by Italian designer Ettore Sottsass. The name "SHIRO KURAMATA" became an international name.


Thirty years have passed since his death. Looking back now, Kuramata's work still has a timeless beauty. Shiro Kuramata's work and ideas, full of a free spirit and playful spirit that have been forgotten by modern design, which focuses on efficiency and marketing, are a legacy of humanity that must be passed on to the next generation.

Characteristics of Shiro Kuramata's Furniture Design

Kuramata's furniture is characterized by its lightness and fragility, which he calls "freedom from gravity," and its "creative use of materials. The large table in "Boutique ISSEY MIYAKE" (1976) seems to float in the air, defying gravity. The "Glass Chair" (1976), one of his best-known works, is simply a thick sheet of glass glued together using a newly developed bond. It looks as if it would break if a person sat on it, but in fact, an adult can sit on it. It is a very beautiful monopod, almost like art, that has the power to affect the viewer's mind. For Kuramata, beauty is a function.


How High the Moon" (1986) is made of expanded metal, an industrial material, welded together. The form is that of a traditional sofa, but Kuramata uses a material that has never been used for furniture before. It looks light and has the functionality to accommodate people.


Miss Blanche" (1988), a chair with artificial roses floating in transparent acrylic, could be described as a chair for viewing. It has Kuramata's characteristics such as freedom from gravity and unique use of materials, and is one of his masterpieces along with "How High the Moon.

Kuramata's designs require a high level of craftsmanship to realize. The only exception to this is "Obaku Q," which is a piece of furniture that is made by a craftsman. The only exception is the "K-series" (1972), nicknamed "Oba-Q. Even this lighting requires hand modeling. Objects such as the reissued "SAMBA-M" (1988) are often hidden masterpieces because their small size allows them to create their own unique world.


Gallery Tamura Joe "Restoration - Shiro Kuramata I

Shiro Kuramata

Photo: Takayuki Ogawa

Shiro Kuramata (1934-91) was active in space and furniture design from the mid-1960s until 1991. Most of the spaces he designed were stores, and only a few of them are still in existence. On the other hand, he also designed many furniture and accessories with a strong object-like color, which are now in the collections of major museums around the world. Some of them are being reprinted by Gallery Tamura Joe


Shiro Kuramata and Sottsass

 Photo: Takayuki Ogawa

Sing Sing Sing,1985

Sing Sing Sing, 1985

 Photo: Ryoichi Yamashita

Apple Honey,1985

Apple Honey, 1985

Photo: Ryoichi Yamashita

Comble / Shizuoka,1988

Comble / Shizuoka, 1988

Photo: Nacasa & Partners

Miss Blanche,1988

Miss Blanche, 1988

Photo: Hiroshi Iwasaki

Glass Chair,1976

Glass Chair, 1976

Photo: Mitsumasa  Fujitsuka

Flower Vase #3,1989

Flower Vase # 3,1989

 Photo: Ryoichi Yamashita


K-series, 1972

Photo: Ryoichi Yamashita


KYOTO, 1983

Photo:  Mitsumasa  Fujitsuka

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