Design Agenda: The Collection of Michael Maharam

Design Agenda: The Collection of Michael Maharam

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 105. "Water Block" Bench.

Tokujin Yoshioka

"Water Block" Bench

Auction Closed

October 15, 05:11 PM GMT


70,000 - 100,000 USD

Lot Details


Tokujin Yoshioka

"Water Block" Bench

designed circa 2002, executed 2004

number 4 from an edition of 12

glass, stainless steel

15¼ x 47¼ x 15⅝ in. (38.7 x 120 x 39.6 cm)

Acquired directly from the artist, 2005
Ryu Niimi, Tokujin Yoshioka Design, New York, 2006, p. 205
Tokujin Yoshioka, Kazuo Hashiba and Ambra Medda, Tokujin Yoshioka, New York, 2010, cover page and pp. 38-43
Tokujin Yoshioka: Waterfall, exh. cat., Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, 2011, pp. 9-19 (for a related “Waterfall” bench)
Blaine Brownell, Matter in the Floating World: Conversations with Leading Japanese Architects and Designers, New York, 2011, p. 247
Tokujin Yoshioka: Crystalize, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Tokyo, 2013, pp. 12-15 and 86-92

This lot is offered together with a certificate of authenticity from the artist.


Through their observations of nature, French Impressionist painters developed an akin understanding of light and water, creating highly textural and poetic representations of their rivers, lakes and oceans. This concern for the two-dimensional representation of such complex natural phenomena is most evident through motifs that are now accepted as canons of Western art— Claude Monet’s depictions of his Giverny pond, Renoir’s paintings of the Seine and Cézanne’s Provençal waterscapes, to name a few. 

In the field of design, where the intersection of form and function has been a greater source of concern for architects and furniture makers, few have made it a point to specifically transcribe concepts of transparency and natural energy through light and water. Tokujin Yoshioka may be one of the first contemporary designers to specifically explore such themes, imparting to his creations great artistic sensibility and technical accomplishment. 

The present “Water Block” bench designed in 2002 and executed in 2004 is a spectacular example of Yoshioka’s pursuit to capture the movement and transparency of water through a strong functional structure made of glass. When viewed firsthand, the bench is an extraordinary technical achievement which creates the illusion that it has somehow been carved out of a block of water. The highly realistic glass surface, with its many undulating curves mimicking ripples of water, was achieved by casting the glass together with rare materials in platinum molds, as opposed to more common stainless or plain steel molds. 

“I am fascinated by shapeless things such as light, wind and sound, which find deep resonance within each and every one of us,” Yoshioka explained. “In my work, I try to assimilate this mysterious aura that modifies the quality of our environment through its sole presence. [...] Just as a piece of glass gradually seems to lose its contours when placed in water, this bench almost seems to disappear on a rainy day.”

This rare example was made as part of a serial glass project started in 2002, with related pieces that include the “Chair that disappears in the rain”, a glass armchair specifically conceived for the Roppongi Hills streetscape project. Within the scope of Yoshioka’s oeuvre, the “Water Block” bench certainly goes in hand with other furniture pieces that rely on unusually delicate materials like paper (“Honey-Pop” chair), polyester fiber (“Pane” chair) and natural crystals (“Venus” chair). 

It was only fitting that the Musée d'Orsay in Paris solicited the designer to participate in the renewal project of their Impressionists Gallery in 2011. Ten examples of Yoshioka’s “Water Block” benches permanently entered the museum’s collection and were displayed in the galleries alongside masterworks by Manet, Degas, Monet and Renoir, creating an intimate dialogue between past and present. Other examples of the “Water Block” bench are held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (Japan), the Saga Prefectural Art Museum (Japan) and the M+ Museum (Hong Kong). This is the first time that the model is presented at auction, providing collectors with an exceptional opportunity to acquire this particularly rare and evocative design.