Shiro Kuramata, ‘Miss Blanche' chair’, Designed 1988, Phillips

Property of an Important European Collector

Guaranteed Property (see Conditions of Sale for further information)

Manufactured by Ishimaru Co., Tokyo, Japan.

From the Catalogue:
“The 20th-century dream has been to ‘go even faster,’ but, in the next century, [I] think this will be to ‘float even more’.” - Shiro Kuramata

Shiro Kuramata was one of the greatest designers of the 20th century. A distinctive, brilliant and complex talent, he helped push modern Japan into becoming an exporter of creativity, not just an importer. Kuramata designed a series of remarkably beautiful interiors, almost all of them now destroyed. His furniture has survived and is now his principle legacy. It is the 'Miss Blanche' chair that most powerfully embodies his poetic approach to design. It combines an unnerving kind of beauty, a strong narrative, and a commitment to the craft values of making.

Named after the central character in the famed play A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche Dubois, the chair resonates with the idea of her tragic beauty, shelled in dreamlike delusion. It is impossible not to be touched by the serene seeming beauty of a graceful transparent object, in which roses float in air, held in place by nothing tangible. The chair seems effortless. However, the craftsmanship behind the creation of the chair was so demanding that many of the craftsmen were reluctant ever to work with Kuramata afterwards.

Working through trial and error, Kuramata’s craftsmen found that pouring liquid acrylic resin to various heights of the mould, then dropping in the flowers, waiting eight hours for the acrylic to harden, and subsequently repeating this, created the best effect. The roses needed to be held in position with tweezers until the resin hardened enough to ensure that they did not sink. Care was taken to make sure there was a good spread of flowers throughout the mould, and that they made a good pattern. The first batch of rose-studded acrylic sheet yielded just eight useable chairs, with one failure.

A total of 56 'Miss Blanche' chairs have been produced over the years - a number that reflects Kuramata’s age at the time of his death. Kuramata experimented with real roses and expensive artificial flowers, but cheap acrylic flowers turned out to work best in retaining colour and shape.

Three crucial relationships demonstrate the significant influence that Kuramata has left in the world of design. Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake, who still collects his work, commissioned him to design some of his most beautiful shops. Kuramata was also a close friend of Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass, who later invited Kuramata to join the Memphis Group that Ettore founded in 1981. British architectural designer John Pawson was so inspired by the experience of working in Kuramata’s studio in Japan that he returned to England and eventually began his own practice in 1981.

Deyan Sudjic
Director of the Design Museum, London

The ‘Miss Blanche’ is included in the following important and international museum collections: Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; DMA, Dallas; M+ Museum, Hong Kong.
Courtesy of Phillips

Ko Tanaka, ed., Star piece: sketch of image by Shiro Kuramata, Tokyo, 1991, passim for drawings
Matthias Dietz and Michael Mönninger, Japanese Design, Cologne, 1994, front cover, pp. 74-75
Shiro Kuramata 1934-1991, exh. cat., Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 1996, pp. 26-27, 39-40, fig. 1, p. 48, p. 187, fig. 8, p. 192 , fig. 4
Alexander von Vegesack, et al., eds., 100 Masterpieces from the Vitra Design Museum Collection, exh. cat., Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, 1996, p. 205
Ettore Sottsass, 'An Exhibition Dedicated to Shiro Kuramata', Domus, no. 788, December 1996, p. 56
Akari Matsuura, Japan Design to the new generation, Japan, 2001, p. 77
'Kuramata's Tokyo', Domus, no. 858, April 2003, pp. 121, 126
Phaidon Design Classics, Volume Three, London, 2006, no. 878 for an image and a drawing
Jean-Louis Gaillemin, ed., Design Contre Design: Deux siècles de créations, exh. cat., Galerie Nationale du Grand Palais, Paris, 2007, p. 301
Glenn Adamson and Jane Pavitt, eds., Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-1990, exh. cat., Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2011, p. 153
Shiro Kuramata and Ettore Sottsass, exh. cat., 21_21 Design Sight, Tokyo, 2011, p. 68 for a drawing, p. 69, p. 208 for a detail, p. 211, fig. 27
Deyan Sudjic, Shiro Kuramata: Essays & Writings, London, 2013, pp. 77, 104-105
Deyan Sudjic, Shiro Kuramata: Catalogue of Works, London, 2013, p. 362, no. 541

About Shiro Kuramata

Shiro Kuramata playfully stretched and skewed tropes of Western design, while combining them with traditional Japanese aesthetics, to produce items of furniture that are surreal, humorous, and often poetic. Kuramata’s Miss Blanche chair (1988), a transparent resin chair flecked with synthetic roses, creates the appearance of a sitter floating on a cloud of blooms. In a design for two chests of drawers, Furniture in Irregular Forms (1970), the stark black-and-white lacquered finish is a nod to the severity of modern furniture, while the undulating shapes capture a more lighthearted attitude. The whimsical spirit of Kuramata’s designs is typical of postmodernism. Kuramata became closely associated with this style in 1981 when he joined Ettore Sottsass’s Memphis Group, an Italian collective that included designers such as Michele de Lucchi, Andrea Branzi, and Nathalie du Pasquier.

Japanese, 1934-1991, Tokyo, Japan, based in Tokyo, Japan