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Pair of Akari paper lamp sculptures sold by Circle Auction

Isamu Noguchi Akari Lamps Achieve Strong Results at Auction

By Circle Auction | Aug 2023


Isamu Noguchi, a celebrated sculptor and designer, has left an unparalleled legacy in the world of design. Born to a Japanese poet father and an American writer mother, Noguchi seamlessly blended his rich heritage with global influences, resulting in iconic pieces that stand the test of time. Perhaps none more so than his Akari paper lamps.

Circle Auction’s recent Contemporary + Modern auction included a handful of the iconic Noguchi paper lamps. Bidders responded, communicating the design is still a sought after icon of mid century design.  

Akari Isamu Noguchi BB1 30DL lamps


The Genesis of Isamu Noguchi’s Akari Lamps:

During a trip to the Japanese town of Gifu in the 1950s, Noguchi was inspired by local fishermen using paper lanterns to illuminate their catch. Enamored by the warm glow and lightweight nature of these lanterns, Noguchi embarked on a journey to reimagine them. Collaborating with local artisans, he utilized handmade washi paper and bamboo ribbing to craft what the world now recognizes as the Akari paper lamps. For Noguchi, these weren’t just lamps; they were luminous sculptures representing a blend of both tradition and innovation.

Isamu Noguchi Akari 12a floor lamp

Noguchi Akari Lamps at Auction: 

Our July 2023 Modern + Contemporary + Modern auction included a handful of Akari lamps. Local Kansas City collectors bid against out of state online buyers to take home the sculptural icons. Results include the buyers premium: 

  • Pair of Akari 1A Table top lamps sold for $773.50 
  • Pair of Akari table lamps (BB1-30DL) secured a final bid of $2,380 
  • Akari 12a floor lamp garnered a value of $1,130.50 

Demand on the secondary market for Noguchi’s designs continue to hold strong. Rare and vintage examples of Noguchi’s sculptural lamps have even archived results in the five figures in recent years. 

Isamu Noguchi lamp designed for Akari

Selling an Isamu Noguchi Akari Lamp:

 Starting in 1950’s Noguchi crafted a wide range of designs for the Akari series, encompassing various shapes, sizes, and patterns, it’s a bit tricky to pin down an exact number. Over his lifetime, he designed over 100 models of Akari light sculptures. These range from table lamps to ceiling lamps to floor lamps.

The Akari light sculptures remain emblematic of Noguchi’s artistic vision, embodying his fusion of traditional Japanese craft with modern design principles. Even today, genuine Akari lamps are made by hand in the same factory in Gifu, Japan, maintaining the integrity of Noguchi’s original designs.

If you have an Akari lamp that you’re interesting in selling at auction, you can connect with us here.




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