Japanese-American artist and designer Isamu Noguchi designed stage sets, furniture, interiors, outdoor plazas, and gardens. Though his most seminal work would absolutely have to be the Akari lantern – a featherweight sculpture intended to harbour and reflect the light of the sun via an electric globe engulfed in delicate washi paper. As a special tribute to the iconic Noguchi light, YMER&MALTA has gathered an international roundtable of six designers to reinterpret his innovative lighting concept for the modern age.

Called Akari Unfolded, the exhibition is currently on show at The Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York and features 26 varied light fixtures. There are designs from British industrial designer Sebastian Bergne, American designer Stephen Burks, French designers Océane Delain and Benjamin Graindorge, French artist Sylvain Rieu-Piquet – and last but not least – Tokyo and Milan-based masters of conceptual design for our modern world, nendo. Each designer or artisan was asked to borrow Akari principles, and push the boundaries of material like linen, resin, Plexiglass, concrete, and paper to come up with something new.

nendo decided to channel Noguchi’s penchant for stone. Many of his sculptures were carved directly from hefty stone, and he regarded Akri as more of a luminescent sculpture than a functional lighting fixture. “We imagined what if Akari had been carved directly from a massive form of light?” Nendo explained in a statement. “It gave us an idea that the fragments from the carved stone should be beautifully luminous.”

The result is Light Fragments, a series of hand-carved white acrylic boards, chiselled back from opaque to transparent. Fragments were then enveloped within the board to appear as if they were floating inside a clear acrylic cube. The thin board is lit externally, via a row of LED lights encased in an 8mm black aluminium pipe – a hidden source of light, creating fragmented shadows of gentle silvery light within.


Akari Unfolded runs from 8 February, 2018 – 27 January, 2019.
The Noguchi Museum: 9-01 33rd Road, Long Island City, NY 11106


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[Images courtesy of nendo. Photography by Kenichi Sonehara.]


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