Isamu Noguchi’s Akari Light Sculptures

You know the one - Isamu Noguchi’s washi and bamboo lights, the Akari.

Whether it’s a pendant or a lamp, these lights have stood the test of time with enduring design and soft atmospheric qualities that create a unique sense of peace in any space.

A sculptor and designer, Noguchi was often faced with the question – is the Akari art or design? Noguchi always said that his Akari was a 'valid expression of sculpture.' However, some of his contemporaries questioned whether he might have stretched the definition of art too far when characterizing his Akari as such. After all, the Akari serves a functional purpose and is produced in multiples.

Over its history, there have been a hundred different designs, spanning from simple geometries like spheres and cubes to more elaborate sculptural forms and washi patterns. While many of these designs could be considered works of art, each hand-made in traditional processes, I wonder whether the presence of many replicas on the market contributes to a sense of ‘reproduction’ more than is the reality.

Noguchi stated that “to start a home all that is needed is a room, a [tatami] pad and an Akari.” So, it wasn’t surprising to learn that sales of the iconic Akari lights had skyrocketed during the pandemic, rising 44% from the previous year.

Does your home feature an iconic Akari yet?