"Akari E"

Designer: Isamu Noguchi (American, Los Angeles, California 1904–1988 New York)

Manufacturer: Ozeki & Co., Ltd.

Date: designed ca. 1951

Medium: Mulberry bark paper, bamboo, wire

Dimensions: H. 9 ft. 6 in. × Diam. 18 7/8 in. (289.6 × 47.9 cm)

Classification: Lighting

Credit Line: Gift of Daniel Wolf, in memory of Diane R. Wolf, 1990

Accession Number: 1990.74


The American sculptor Isamu Noguchi designed this "Akari" hanging lamp. About 9.5 feet tall, it is made of mulberry bark paper stretched over a collapsible wire and bamboo framework; a series of bulbs, strung along a single electrical cord suspended within, lights it. The interlocking geometric shapes are sculptural in effect, and evoke traditional Japanese hanging lanterns.

In the early 1950s, Noguchi traveled to the Japanese town of Gifu. The mayor of the town requested the widely respected Noguchi to provide designs for lanterns in an effort to revive the dying lamp-making industry for which the town was traditionally known (the local craftsmen had been reduced to manufacturing cheap painted-silk party decorations). The name "Akari," which is Japanese for "light," indicates that Noguchi intended to create a luminous sculpture as much as a practical source of illumination, and underlines the close ties between art and design.