Early Furniture by George Nakashima, 1936-1956 The Architect Designs

October 9 – December 24, 2009 at Moderne Gallery in Philadelphia

A groundbreaking exhibition: the first to focus exclusively on George Nakashima's early years and works that were the basis for his artistic development

(February 2009)


Philadelphia, PA…Focusing on the master craftsman's development during the first 20 years of his oeuvre, a historic exhibit titled "Early Furniture by George Nakashima, 1936-1956: The Architect Designs" will be presented at Philadelphia's Moderne Gallery from October 9 – December 24, 2009, 111 N. Third Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106. (www.modernegallery.com).

This groundbreaking exhibit promises to make a major contribution to the field, tracing the developments of George Nakashima's early years as he began to form his unique vision. While many people know Nakashima's mature work, the striking natural wood forms with raw edges and organic shapes, few are aware of his beginnings and the evolutionary thinking that informed his original woodworking.

Trained as an architect, Nakashima produced work in this early period that laid the foundation for his transformation into a master woodworker and furniture designer. "Early Furniture by George Nakashima, 1936-1956: The Architect Designs" provides an insightful understanding of the innovative furniture designs that led to Nakashima's initial success and to his international recognition in the worlds of art and design, during his lifetime and since his death in 1990.

One of the truly formative furniture designers of the 20th Century, George Nakashima led the way and influenced all who came after him by forging a unique and unprecedented body of work. He is a central figure in "reinventing design" in the 20th Century.

Moderne Gallery is uniquely positioned to present this historic exhibit. Owner/Director Robert Aibel has often been called "the world's leading Nakashima dealer." Specializing in the studio craft furniture of George Nakashima for 24 years, he has collected, exhibited and sold Nakashima's vintage work since opening Moderne Gallery in Old City Philadelphia in 1984.

With the idea of this historically important exhibit in mind, Aibel has been collecting early pieces of Nakashima furniture for over 10 years. He has also arranged to borrow important items from the Nakashima family, private collections and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. While numerous items in the "Early Furniture" exhibit will be on loan, many pieces will be available for purchase.

Furnishings on exhibit will reflect Nakashima's years working in Japan, India, and eventually New Hope, PA. These include pieces designed for Andre Ligne in 1940, prototypes designed for Rene d' Harnoncourt of the Museum of Modern Art in 1943-44, and furniture made in 1936 for Golconde in India. During these years, most of Nakashima's pieces were unique, custom works. As such, they provided a base for the development of designs for the more standardized catalogues of the 1960's - 80's.

"It is very exciting to be able to look at the early 'restrained' work and see how George was beginning to articulate a new vocabulary of design that didn't exist before him," says Aibel. "This exhibit will bring together pieces that have only rarely been seen by the public, and together they will tell a new story."

Aibel is often credited with initiating the broad revival of interest in Nakashima's work and encouraging George's daughter, Mira, to publicize and further develop her own line of furniture at the Nakashima Studio in New Hope, PA. Over the years he has developed a national and international following among designers, architects, collectors and museums and has become a frequent source for journalists.

Aibel's ongoing scholarship, his highly respected market knowledge of 20th - 21st Century decorative arts and aesthetics, and his enthusiasm for sharing information have led to an active role as a lecturer, consultant and appraiser. Aibel contributed an essay to the renowned Krosnick auction catalogue at Sotheby's in 2006 and has written hundreds of Nakashima appraisals, including several for the Nakashima family and museum exhibitions. He is a recognized aesthetic historian in the field.

Moderne Gallery is internationally renowned for showing vintage work from the American Craft and Studio Furniture Movement, especially works by George Nakashima, Wharton Esherick, Sam Maloof and Wendell Castle.

Moderne Gallery has presented several important exhibits featuring Nakashima in the Philadelphia gallery including: "George Nakashima" (1992); "Zen Modernism: The Work of George Nakashima, 1955-1975" (1994); "The Nakashima Tradition: Origins and Continuity" (1998, in cooperation with Mira Nakashima-Yarnall and the Nakashima Studio); "George Nakashima: Designing Nature" (2001); and "The Nakashima Legacy" (2004 in cooperation with Mira Nakashima-Yarnall and the Nakashima Studio). The opening of this exhibit provided the national launch for Mira Nakashima's book Nature, Form and Spirit (Abrams).

Moderne Gallery is located at 111 N. Third Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106 
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 11:00 - 6:00, and by appointment.

For further information, please contact owner/director Robert Aibel at 215-923-8536 or info@modernegallery.com. See www.modernegallery.com


Note to press: We welcome queries about Robert Aibel, Moderne Gallery and the upcoming exhibit "Early Furniture by George Nakashima,1936-1956: The Architect Designs." 

Press contact: Phoebe Resnick, Resnick Communications 
610-872-2689 / cell: 215-206-1402 prres1@comcast.net