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Object Timeline

1955

  • Work on this object began.

2016

2017

  • You found it!

86T Rocking Stool, 1954

This is a Rocking stool. It was designed by Isamu Noguchi and manufactured by Knoll Textiles. It is dated 1954 and we acquired it in 2016. Its medium is birch, chrome-plated steel rods. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

Designed at the height of the Atomic Age, Noguchi’s Model 86T Rocking Stool embodies the minimalism and rationalism of postwar design. Noguchi was born in Los Angeles but lived in Japan until he moved to Indiana at the age of thirteen. After leaving his pre-med studies at Columbia University to pursue sculpture, he went to work in Constantin Brancusi’s Paris studio between 1927 and 1929, exploring abstraction and modernism in his work. Travel played a key role in Noguchi’s work throughout his life, and this stool, in particular, was conceived in 1951 upon the designer’s return from Japan. Originally intended to be realized in polyurethane, the manufacturer Hans Knoll encouraged Noguchi to create the piece “in some sort of wire, à la Bertoia.” At the time of this suggestion, Knoll was in the process of bringing Harry Bertoia’s wire chair to market, and likely wanted Noguchi’s stool to compliment the Italian designer’s piece. To that end, Knoll also asked Noguchi to adapt the stool into a table, resulting in the Cyclone dining table, in continuous production since 1957. The wood and wire stools, however, were only produced for five years, and stand out from the designer’s oeuvre because he only rarely used wire in his furniture designs. The basic form of the stool with its rods and discs recall atomic structure, a motif very much on the minds of mid-century designers. This is likely especially true for Noguchi who, as a Japanese-American, was deeply impacted by the racial tension in America during World War II and the deployment of atomic bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The stool is an interesting example of Noguchi’s industrial design, one which at once conjures the optimism of atomic technology while also acknowledging its drastic and dark impact on the modern world.

This object was donated by George R. Kravis II. It is credited Gift of George R. Kravis II.

Our curators have highlighted 7 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Z Clock, 1934
  • bent chrome-plated tubular brass, enameled brass, plate glass.
  • Promised gift of George R. Kravis II.
  • 7065.48.2015

Its dimensions are

H x diam.: 41.9 × 35.6 cm (16 1/2 in. × 14 in.)

Cite this object as

86T Rocking Stool, 1954; Designed by Isamu Noguchi (American, 1904–1988); birch, chrome-plated steel rods; H x diam.: 41.9 × 35.6 cm (16 1/2 in. × 14 in.); Gift of George R. Kravis II; 2016-5-13

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Energizing the Everyday: Gifts From the George R. Kravis II Collection.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/404734425/ |title=86T Rocking Stool, 1954 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=14 December 2017 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>

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