Door 18: Shiro Kuramata

© Phaidon Press

The role of gallery owners and dealers is not only for artists a pivotal, but also for designers. A name that regularly pops up is Zeev Aram, he not only helped Eileen Gray to her reputation, but also another interior and furniture designer, the Japanese Shiro Kuramata.

Issey Miyake Store (1976)

He staged an exhibition of his work in 1981 in London, when Japanese design was still seen as copy-work and helped establish their work. Shiro Kuramata, born in 1934, belongs to the generation of artists and designers like the fashion designer Issey Miyake, architects Arata Isozaki and Tadao Ando, and film-maker Akira Kurosawa,  who were born shortly before the 2nd world war and grew up in its aftermath.


Oblomov bar, Fukuoka (1989) © Mitsumasa Fujitsuka

Shiro studied architecture at Tokyo Polytechnic until 1953 and after a short work-experience started to enroll himself at the Kuwasawa institute to study interior design. In 1965 he started his own design practice Kuramata-Studio. He did interiors for bars, restaurants or shops like his friend Issey Miyake. Unfortunately not many of his architectural works, with a few exceptions works, are not on display anymore.

Stylistically he left a big imprint on Japanese post war design. He used industrial materials like like acrylic, glass, aluminum, and steel mesh, combining the Orient and Occident. He is often seen as a minimalist but was daring to experiment with shapes and color. He joined Ettore Sottsass's collective, the design group Memphis, at its founding in 1981. His most famous furniture designs are How High the Moon chair (1986) and the Miss Blanche chair (1988). The later ine is named after Tennessee Williams’ character Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Unfortunately his career was short through his untimely death in 1991.

Miss Blanche chair (1988)