Not currently on display at the V&A

Cabinet de Curiosité

Cabinet
1988 (designed), 1989 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The Cabinet of Curiosities is an important example of Shiro Kuramata's late work where he explored the possibilities of perspex acrylic. He first used plastics in the late 1960s and experimented with impregnating objects in clear acrylic later.
The geometric arrangement of square-section and rectangular elements of the cabinet is severe and Modernist in character. The radiant and expressive colour of the object however, is influenced by the playful Postmodern palette common in the 1980s. This combination of expressive and reductive elements is typical of Kuramata's design sensibility. The cabinet's beauty - apparently described by Kuramata with the Japanese term 'neiro', or 'sound-colour' - is enhanced when light passes through the object, producing a coloured shadow on the floor and wall.
A vertical unit with circular shelves seems to float magically within the box described by the cabinet's tall, slender legs. One wall of this unit is a removable door which is difficult to see or use. Any objects placed within the cabinet seem to have been magically encased inside. The title, Cabinet of Curiosities refers to the early modern Kunstkammer, in which extraordinary objects of nature and artifice were displayed in juxtaposition.
watch What is Postmodernism? This elusive design style is notoriously difficult to define. So we asked some of Postmodernism's leading practitioners, including Charles Jencks, Robert A.M. Stern and Sir Terry Farrell – what does it mean to be Postmodern?
object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 3 parts.

  • Cabinet
  • Cabinet
  • Cabinet
Additional TitleCabinet of Curiosities
Materials and Techniques
Coloured perspex acrylic.
Brief Description
Cabinet, 'Cabinet de Curiosité' (Cabinet of Curiosities), by Shiro Kuramata, No 16 of an edition of 40, manufactured by Ishimaru Co Ltd., Tokyo, 1988, coloured perspex acrylic
Physical Description
Simple vertical structure of square profiled acrylic poles into which a smaller vertical unit with circular shelves (W.25:2-2010) can be positioned, held by a square perspex sheet. A removable single sheet of perspex (W.25:3-2010) acts as opening allowing the change of objects on display.
Dimensions
  • Height: 190cm
  • Width: 46cm
  • Depth: 46cm
Measured from object (JS 05.11.2010)
Styles
Production typeLimited edition
Copy Number
16 of 40
Gallery Label
[Toshiba Gallery of Japanese design] 'Cabinet de Curiosité' 1989 Shiro Kuramata was one of 20th century Japan's most original designers. He understood design not just as a way of producing functional items, but as a means of creating sculptural objects imbued with narratives and meanings. This work reflects his long-term fascination with plastic. The three suspended shelves are for the display of precious objects, which float magically as if hanging in mid-air. Designed by Shiro Kuramata (1934-91) Manufactured by Ishimaru Co. Ltd., Tokyo Perspex acrylic Museum no. W.25-2010 (2015)
Object history
'My ideal is to see objects floating in the air.' (Shiro Kuramata)



The 'Cabinet de Curiosite' was exhibited at the Galerie Yves Gastou in Paris in 1988 among a group of coloured acrylic objects and pieces of furniture. Kuramata explored in this and related projects concepts of colour and transparency which is the reason for the use of acrylic in his late career. These objects test spatial and temporal boundaries as they contort colour, line and form. Through optical contrasts he achieves impressions of the borders as simultaneously discrete and interactive, such as the relative small footprint challenged by the expanse of coloured light reflected onto the cabinet's surroundings. The actual material presence of the cabinet suggests a sense of negative space while its function provides a repository of tangible objects as confirmed by the title 'Cabinet de Curiosity'. The title, Cabinet of Curiosities refers to the early modern Kunstkammer, in which extraordinary objects of nature and artifice were displayed in juxtaposition. The contrast between historicism and timelessness was a tool of Postmodernists that Kuramata often employed.



Production
Produced by Mieko Kuramata at the Kuramata Design office, 1989.
Summary
The Cabinet of Curiosities is an important example of Shiro Kuramata's late work where he explored the possibilities of perspex acrylic. He first used plastics in the late 1960s and experimented with impregnating objects in clear acrylic later.

The geometric arrangement of square-section and rectangular elements of the cabinet is severe and Modernist in character. The radiant and expressive colour of the object however, is influenced by the playful Postmodern palette common in the 1980s. This combination of expressive and reductive elements is typical of Kuramata's design sensibility. The cabinet's beauty - apparently described by Kuramata with the Japanese term 'neiro', or 'sound-colour' - is enhanced when light passes through the object, producing a coloured shadow on the floor and wall.

A vertical unit with circular shelves seems to float magically within the box described by the cabinet's tall, slender legs. One wall of this unit is a removable door which is difficult to see or use. Any objects placed within the cabinet seem to have been magically encased inside. The title, Cabinet of Curiosities refers to the early modern Kunstkammer, in which extraordinary objects of nature and artifice were displayed in juxtaposition.
Bibliographic References
  • Shiro Kuramata 1934-1991, exh. cat. Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 1996, fig.23, p. 192, fig.3
  • D. Sudjic, Shiro Kuramata. Volume II:Catalogue of Works(London: Phaidon, 2013), p.398, no. 578.
Collection
Accession Number
W.25:1 to 3-2010

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record createdNovember 3, 2010
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