The Nakashima Tradition: Origins And Continuity

Simultaneous Exhibitions Showcase a Vibrant Craft Heritage and Benefit Russian Peace Table Project; October-December 1998


Vintage works by master craftsman George Nakashima at Moderne Gallery In Philadelphia and Studio Pieces from the Nakashima Workshop, including new works by Mira Nakashima -Yarnall at Nakashima Studio in New Hope, PA

(September 1998)

Philadelphia, PA (September 1998)...Two exhibitions, presented simultaneously this fall in Philadelphia and nearby New Hope, PA, will showcase the vision and legacy of the late master craftsman George Nakashima.

“The Nakashima Tradition: Origins and Continuity” is a unique collaboration, born of a shared interest and commitment, by two of the master’s greatest proponents: Robert Aibel, owner of Philadelphia’s Moderne Gallery, which specializes in classics of 20th century design, and architect/craftsman Mira Nakashima-Yarnall, George’s daughter, who continues to direct the Nakashima Studio in New Hope and to develop new pieces of her own.

“The Nakashima Tradition: Origins and Continuity” will begin on Friday, October 9 with the opening of Vintage Works by George Nakashima at the Moderne Gallery, 111 N. Third Street, Philadelphia (215-923-8536). Studio Pieces: Continuity and Growth at the Nakashima Studio opens Friday evening, October 16 at the Studio, 1847 Aquetong Road, New Hope, (215-862-2272). Both exhibitions continue through December 19, 1998.

In the context of a market for Nakashima furniture that has been heating up for the past several years, the Moderne Gallery/Nakashima Studio exhibitions and corollary programs will bring fresh attention to the personal history, the vision and the body of work of George Nakashima. They will also explore the master’s influence on designers of today — especially his daughter Mira, who has
taken her own place in the world of craft furniture.

As a special, integral feature of “The Nakashima Tradition: Origins and Continuity,” benefit events associated with the exhibitions will seek to raise funds for continuing George Nakashima’s greatest endeavor: The Global Peace Altar/Table Project of the Nakashima Foundation for Peace.

The Peace Altar/Table is a manifestation of George Nakashima’s dream to create a tangible focus for prayer and meditation, one for each of the continents of the world. Made of two massive book-matched planks sawn from a monumental Black Walnut tree, each Peace Table measures approximately 10 1/2 feet by 10 1/2 feet, weighs 1/2 to 3/4 of a ton, and costs at least $30,000 to produce. The Peace Altar/Table intended for Russia is now ready to be received.

According to Mira Nakashima-Yarnall, the family hopes to send the Peace Table to Russia well in time for the new millenium. Funds raised through the collaboration with Moderne Gallery will help to defray shipping and installation expenses, and provide seed money for peace-related activities.

“We are extremely grateful to Bob Aibel for his support, not only of the Nakashima Studio past and present,” said Mira Nakashima-Yarnall,” but also for helping realize another manifestation of the Peace Altar/Table Dream of George Nakashima.”

 The Exhibitions

“The Nakashima Tradition: Origins and Continuity” begins on Friday evening, October 9 with an invitational benefit party for The Global Peace Altar/Table Project of the Nakashima Foundation for Peace at the Moderne Gallery, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.

This festive occasion at the Moderne Gallery is the opening event for an important exhibition, Vintage Works by George Nakashima. Studio pieces from the 1950’s to the 1980’s will be on display, including chairs, dining tables, end and coffee tables, chests, desks, and sofas. Several of his designs from the 1940’s — 1980’s for Knoll and Widdicomb will also be represented. Most pieces will be available for purchase.

For George Nakashima, all work was intended to be spiritually evocative as well as physically beautiful and functional. Lovingly and with great respect, he transformed pieces of wood into furniture, expressing his reverence for trees and his wish to give those trees a second life through the work of his hands. The Moderne Gallery exhibition Vintage Works by George Nakashima opens to the public on October 10 and continues through December 19.

Guests at the October 9 opening/benefit party will include Marion Nakashima, widow of George, daughter Mira, son Kevin, and Irene Goldman, chairperson of the Russian Peace Table project and a representative from Auroville, India, where a Peace Altar/Table was installed. They will elaborate on the meaning of the Global Peace Altar/Table Project as a symbol and synthesis of George Nakashima’s values and artistry. Donations to the Peace Project will be accepted throughout the exhibition.

Studio Pieces: Continuity and Growth at the Nakashima Studio, the parallel exhibition, will open with a wine and cheese reception on Friday evening, October 16 from 5:30 -7:30 p.m. Mira Nakashima-Yarnall, who has been intimately involved with the work of her father and the Studio since 1970, will introduce and debut a new group of furniture named Keisho (pronounced “kaysho,” which means “continuation” in Japanese) as the heart of the exhibition.

The Minguren Museum, which showcases vintage George Nakashima works and the Peace Table, and is usually visited only by appointment, will be opened specially to the public on Saturday, October 17 from 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. An open-house and tours of both the Museum and the Studio Showroom will be hosted by the Nakashima family that day as part of the exhibition opening. A donation of $5 per person for the Peace Project is requested. The Studio is open for sales every Saturday from 1:00 to 4:30 p.m., except for holiday weekends.

A broad selection of furniture lines produced since the 1960’s by the Nakashima Studio — including the Conoid and Minguren series — will be on display along with the Keisho group, and discussed in terms of “old and new” design and workmanship. All works that are not part of the permanent collection will be available for purchase. (Note: Two of the new Keisho pieces will also be on display at the Moderne Gallery.)

The Nakashima Studio will contribute a percentage of exhibition sales to the Global Peace Altar/Table Project. Donations to the Peace Project will be accepted at the opening reception and lecture programs. The exhibition Studio Pieces: Continuity Growth and at the Nakashima Studio will take place October 16 through December 19.

To request an invitation to the October 9 benefit party at the Moderne Gallery, call 215-923-8536. Regular gallery hours: 11 to 6, Tuesday- Saturday; and by appointment.

To receive additional information about the reception at The Nakashima Studio on October 16, call 215-862-2272. Studio hours: 1-4:30 on Saturdays; design consultations by appointment.

 The Market for Nakashima Furniture

With the growing interest in vintage craft furniture, the market for the work of George Nakashima has grown stronger and stronger and set record prices in the past several years. Values continue to rise as more and more museums and knowledgeable collectors appreciate the work itself and the master’s influence on both craftsmanship and 20th century design.

 The Global Peace Altar/Table Project of the Nakashima Foundation for Peace

The original Peace Altar was placed in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City in 1986. The second Peace Table was the centerpiece for the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations in 1995 and was consecrated in the same Cathedral. It was returned to New Hope in 1996 and is now housed in the Minguren Museum on the Nakashima compound, where the Table is waiting to be sent to Russia. The third Peace Table was consecrated and sent to Auroville, India, in 1996. Others will be made as funding permits.

Moderne Gallery

Moderne Gallery, a nationally recognized gallery specializing in Art Deco, Art Moderne and classics of 20th century design, has for many years been one of the major resources for buying and selling the furniture of George Nakashima. Owner/director Bob Aibel has had an interest in Nakashima since he opened Moderne in 1985. Initially selling the furniture from his warehouse, he now devotes an entire room of his Gallery to vintage Nakashima pieces. Because of his prominence in the Nakashima market and his long-term relationship with collectors and museums, Aibel has become a prime source of information on Nakashima furniture and market trends.

In 1994 Moderne Gallery presented the acclaimed exhibition “Zen Modernism: The Furniture of George Nakashima.” At that time, Aibel noted: “George Nakashima synthesized Eastern philosophies and East-West design and technology in a unique and distinctively modern, yet timeless form. Modernism, naturalism and pantheism are intertwined in a completely original aesthetic. I have felt strongly about Nakashima’s work for many years. It is a privilege to be able to exhibit it at Moderne.”

For additional information on the exhibitions, programs and the Global Peace Altar/Table Project — or to arrange interviews — contact Resnick Communications at 215-893-0204.

 Programs

Two fascinating talks at the exhibits and an all-day program sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania College of General Studies will be offered as part of “The Nakashima Tradition: Origins and Continuity”

AN EMERGING HERITAGE invites the public to a lecture by Mira Nakashima-Yarnall on her own work, and her artistic legacy from her father, who spent his life “in deep apprenticeship,” “learning from the noble trees.” She will also speak of the Nakashima relationship to traditional Japanese design and will read excerpts from her upcoming book Nature, Form and Spirit (publisher: Harry Abrams). Additional commentary will be provided by Robert Hunsicker, who is creating a documentary film with the Nakashima family for release in the year 2000. This program will take place on Friday, November 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Nakashima Studio.

LIVING WITH NAKASHIMA will bring together several well-known collectors who have important collections of Nakashima furniture on Thursday, November 19 at 6:00 p.m. at the Moderne Gallery. Participants will include Arthur and Evelyn Krosnick and Seymour and Phyllis Lifschutz and architect, Michael Gabellini. Discussion leader will be Bruce Katsiff, Director of the James A. Michener Museum of Art in Doylestown, PA.

UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, COLLEGE OF GENERAL STUDIES 
— ALL-DAY PROGRAM/BUS TRIP
Saturday, October 24 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Bus leaves from the University of Pennsylvania campus. Cost: $75 per person; box lunch at Nakashima Studio included. Presented in cooperation with the Foundation for Architecture. Register by calling U of PA/CGS at 215-898-4970.

This program is an opportunity to explore the vision, life story and extraordinary furniture of master craftsman George Nakashima (1905-1990). The tour will visit the two new exhibits on display October — December 1998 dedicated to his work: First, Studio Pieces: Continuity and Growth at The Nakashima Studio in New Hope, PA. After a box lunch at the Nakashima Studio, architect/designer Mira Nakashima-Yarnall will lead a special tour of the Minguren Museum.

The tour continues to Vintage Works by George Nakashima, at the Moderne Gallery in Old City Philadelphia, where Moderne owner/director Robert Aibel will discuss Nakashima’s role in 20th century decorative arts.

 Mira’s Personal Statement

Having grown up in my father’s workshop, and persuaded by him to pursue a degree in architecture at Harvard and then Waseda University, I returned to New Hope with my young family in 1970 to work part-time. Starting with everyday secretarial tasks, I slowly worked through the design process, first in developing shop drawings, and then actual client-collaborative conceptual designs as my father advanced in age and volume of orders increased. Three years before Dad died, I worked closely with Derek Ostergard, the curator of the American Craft Museum Show, to develop the retrospective “Full Circle” which opened in May 1989. In that same year, the Krosnick home and 35-year collection of Nakashimas burned to the ground, and my children and I helped research and reconstruct the lost pieces to fulfill my father’s promise to restore their collection. My father had a stroke that October which distorted his numerical and spatial understanding, so I was forced to take over most of his tasks in the workshop. When he died in June 1990, there was a backlog of 3-1/2 years’ work, but over half of those were canceled for wont of the Master’s magical touch.

It has been a struggle ever since then to reestablish ourselves as a viable, ongoing concern, even though we have thankfully retained most of the key men who worked with my father. We also had to build two more large lumber sheds to store the wood my father had purchased during his lifetime.

The challenge now was for me to establish my own identity, to develop new designs alongside the old, to maintain a continuity and yet push past the boundaries of older forms, to try to comply with client requests and oddly-shaped pieces of wood and yet retain a semblance of Nakashima integrity. It is a continuing adventure, as I suspect it always was, to meet the demands of client, personnel, and official red tape and yet find a few quiet moments in the Studio or the wood shed to work out designs.

We have continued to produce the “classic” Nakashima designs which were current when my father died, revived some of the older, previously discontinued designs, and developed new forms as time and demand permit.

The Global Peace Altar/Table projects are an ongoing concern, with the one focused on Russia particularly dear to my father’s heart. Please join us in helping his dream come true.

Mira Nakashima-Yarnall
May 1998