The Jessica Hagen Gallery is thrilled to announce that one of our represented artists, Mira Nakashima, has bested her own personal auction record with her Claro Walnut dining table and Conoid chairs. We are immensely proud of this significant accomplishment!
The article below was originally published online Architectural Digest. Click here to see the article on the original site.
A different Nakashima has earned her well-deserved time in the auction spotlight: Mira Nakashima—the daughter of acclaimed woodworker George who has run the family's studio in New Hope, Pennsylvania, since her father's passing in 1990—saw a world record for her exceptional Claro walnut dining table and set of eight Conoid chairs, a signature Nakashima model. At the Freeman's design auction in Philadelphia last week, the set sold for $150,000—surpassing its high estimate of $80,000—a world record for any work made by Mira (both under her direction or in collaboration with her father).
Though she has contributed to the field of craft furniture and expanded her father's legacy, works by Mira often don't have the cachet that they deserve, which is financially reflected in auction results. Examples aren't hard to find; in Freeman's design sale alone, a set of six Conoid dining chairs by George fetched $26,250, while a set of five Conoids by Mira realized only $8,750. Plus, a smaller (and less remarkable) table by George with a set of only six Conoid chairs fetched $187,500 at Freeman's last October, and carried a much higher presale estimate of $100,000–150,000.
It makes the younger Nakashima's new record all the more exciting. "What's happening with the market is that really advanced collectors are acknowledging that Mira's contributions are just as valued and worthy of collecting as George's work, and in terms of modern and contemporary design generally," says Tim Andreadis, head of the 20th-Century Design department at Freeman's, who adds that an A or A-plus work by Mira can be had for the same price as a B-level work by George. "Mira really brought her own design voice to the process, and many of her best works are approaching, if not equal to, some of the best works George created, even though there are some differences to observers in those pieces. People are realizing that it's not just a familial legacy, it's an artistic one."
Though Nakashima pieces frequently appear at auction as George (and now Mira) managed a prolific studio—45 lots alone appeared at Freeman's design sale—only certain pieces garner special attention. The now record-holding table, which was commissioned by Pennsylvania-based design collectors Dr. Steven J. Weber and Pati Doyle-Weber, is a technical masterpiece.
Upon visiting George Nakashima's studio in the late 1980s, the Doyle-Webers fell in love with a piece of wood: a massive slab of Claro walnut (a Western U.S. variety typically found in California, rarer than the typical cherry or black walnut) over nine feet long with the remnants of a small lead bullet shot into the tree's side. "Other woodworkers would dig out that bullet so they'd have a cleaner surface to work with, but these are the sort of things that George really liked," Andreadis explains. "It spoke to the tree's history, and he wanted to honor that. That's his philosophy—these trees lived lives that were worth revering and preserving in their afterlives as pieces of furniture."
Though George passed away a year after the Doyle-Webers studio visit, Mira began construction on the table herself. The project took three to four years to complete, both due to the technical manpower required for construction and the backlog of orders subsuming Mira's studio after her father's death. The result, however, was worth the wait. The nine-by-six-foot table puts the Claro walnut grain on full display, punctuated with eight laurel and American black walnut butterfly joints. "Little details like that really excite the Nakashimas' market," adds Andreadis.
The Doyle-Webers were so obsessed with the table, they built an entire house around it. As their commission was completed, the pair were concurrently building a new home in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Their biggest requirement? A raised dining area with enough room for their new table. Andreadis says, "The entire home ended up being fit with custom works by the Nakashimas with this table really being the crown jewel."