Iconic Low or Coffee Table, Designed by Isamu Noguchi (1904 -1988)


This example of Noguchi's work, one of the classic forms of mid twentieth century furniture, widely recognized as a powerful and expressive piece of modern sculpture, was created for G. Conger Goodyear, the then President of MOMA in 1939. Two examples of this table were put into the design collection of the museum, one in birch and the other in ebonized birch.

Multiples of this unique design were first reproduced by Herman Miller in 1947. This firm was recognized for its early role in promoting personal and industrial modern furniture design. They produced the table briefly in birch, cherry, and walnut. Birch and cherry now very rare and highly sought by collectors. Noguchi's signature was reproduced on the polished edge of the glass of the table's top and under a medalllion with his signature under it which was placed beneath its famous base, which is often described as an example of "subversive design", for being a three-legged table with only 2 legs.
These early tables were 15 inches tall, and their glass tops measured 36 x 50 inches. The glass itself was 7/8 " thick, and many people prefer the next iteration of the table which had a 3/4 " thick glass tops, which are much easier to handle. The two pieces of curved biomorphic wood that formed the base are interlocked and form a self-stabilizing unit.

In 1965 Herman Miller, which had briefly stopped producing the table re-entered it in its line of manufacture with a height of 15 3/4 inches, a design modification suggested by the artist.

The table continues to be made by Herman Miller and many other firms. These later examples incorporate more design changes. The artist's signature diappears in 1965, the glass gets thinner, and the wooden legs are often pieced when made by some of the later companies who enter the table in their design repertoire, as opposed to being made each from a single piece of wood. If one buys one of these tables, changed to cheapen their manufacturing cost and made with changes not introduced by the artist, they are buying the table for its attractive design and not its existance as an example of this early masterpiece. Generally, this loss of stature results in a cheaper price, and the work is then referred to as in the style of Isamu Noguchi, or, a t least, it should be so described.