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Umeda Masanori Archive 梅田正德作品檔案

1968–1999
The Umeda Masanori Archive contains 174 items covering the career arc of Japanese Postmodern designer Umeda Masanori (born 1941) the bulk of which is comprised of 140 design drawings, in addition to photographs of design models, and ephemera such as press clippings and marketing brochures that lend insight into the thinking, processes, context, promotion and reception surrounding the designs.

The archival material traces the evolution of Umeda’s career through an extensive range of projects, beginning with early industrial designs like his Mobile Supply System proposal (1968) which, developed with the help of Umeda’s mentor, Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, won the first Braun Prize for Industrial Design. It also includes Umeda’s Gemini (1969-1970) melamine ashtray, which in many ways launched his career as his first commercially-made product. Introduced at the height of popularity and innovation for plastics, it was offered in 7 playful colours by the Italian company Onorato and, later, Japan’s Arflex, and was sold in monochrome pairs that fit together like a clam.

In the 1970s, Umeda worked for Olivetti under Ettore Sottsass, a maverick of Italian radical design known for his wry, Pop sensibility that by that time also drew from historical tropes and Eastern mysticism. The influence can be seen in Umeda’s work from that decade, including his Medio Oriente chair (1972-1974) which, resembling a military tank and patterned in camouflage, offered a commentary on geopolitical events by referencing the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Also from this period was the Ping Pong lamp (1978), with its paddle-and-ball shape. (Though developed for Arros & Guzzini, it was never put into production; the prototype being proposed is the only physical manifestation of the design known to exist.) Meanwhile, Umeda was also able to realise his Mobile Supply System with La Cassa (1976-1978), a version of the proposal’s kitchen unit that was put into production by the Italian manufacturer Cucine Mesaglio. La Cassa was nominated for the prestigious Compasso d’Oro prize in 1979, though it was not a commercial success, with only 10 units sold.

The 1980s would mark the height of Umeda’s career with the introduction of his work for Memphis. Invited to participate in the group’s seminal, first show in 1981, Umeda immediately attracted attention for his Tawaraya (1981). A cross between a boxing ring, tatami bed, conversation pit and playpen—and featuring bold stripes, rainbow-colored railings and four gooseneck globe lights for good measure—Tawaraya defied categorisation and epitomised Memphis’s iconoclastic ethos. Even its name came, rather cheekily, from that of the revered 300-year-old ryokan in Kyoto that’s often considered Japan’s finest. The following year, Umeda released another of his soon-to-be-iconic Memphis designs, a robot-shaped storage unit named Ginza (1981-1982) after the high-end shopping district in Tokyo. Indeed, Umeda’s experiments continued to break modernist rules with their mishmash of high and low references and anything-but-pure geometries: the squiggly Medusa table (1982); the zoomorphic Animal chair (1981-1983); the sexually-suggestive Orinoco vase (1982-83) and Parana fruit bowl (1983), both of which were shown with Memphis in 1983; the Star tray (1984; one of only four examples known to exist) which was made for the Spiral Shop in Tokyo and had an innovative die-cut, concave shape; the Mutsugoro tea and coffee set (circa 1983); the butterfly-inspired Farfalla lamp (1982); and the acorn-shaped Umeda Stand light (circa 1984).

Increasingly, Umeda was looking to exotic flora and fauna for inspiration, culminating around 1990 with his Flower series, much of which was put into production by the Italian manufacturer Edra. Exuberantly bursting like blossoms and petals, these brightly-colored furniture pieces would become some of the designer’s most familiar works. According to Umeda, he conceived them in the Japanese tradition of kacho fugetsu (literally “flower, bird, wind, moon”), which he sought to reinterpret and integrate into modern, urban life. The result was a daring manifestation of artificial nature. This proposal includes exceedingly rare, original prototypes of the best-known of the series, the blossom-shaped Shosun chair (1989-1992) and orchid-shaped Getsuen sofa (1990). Of particular note is the Getsuen, for which M+ has been offered the original prototype which precedes the chair’s production by Edra. Made by the Japanese workshop of Miyamoto, this particular example was unveiled in 1988 at Tokyo Designers Week, where it was shown next to Kuramata Shiro’s Miss Blanche chair at the Axis Gallery. Other Flower series designs include the appropriately-named Anthurium table (circa 1989), Lotus sofa (circa 1987), Rose sofa (1989-1990), Sakura-cherry chair (1988-1991), RAN-Orchid chair (1989-1995), and leaf-shaped Ombra vases (1995-1997). Umeda would also reinterpret the traditional Japanese paper lantern with his Be-Andon lights (1993-1995).

The Umeda Masanori Archive is a selection of archival material corresponding to the objects of Umeda Masanori acquired by M+, selected in consultation with the designer and daughter of Umeda Masanori, Nanae Umeda. Umeda kept archival folders for many of his projects, consisting mostly of sketches, technical drawings and ephemera. The intention was not to build an Umeda archive, but to supplement the objects in the collection with these limited archival materials. Archival materials that we acquired that do not have a corresponding object in the collection, as with the Mobile Supply System, were included because they either represented additional Umeda works determined as important in conveying his design narrative.
Arranged chronologically by project.

Details

Object Number
CA28
Archive Creator
Archival Level
Fonds
Date
1968–1999
Dimensions
174 items
Credit Line
M+, Hong Kong
CA28/1

Archival material, Mobile Supply System

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CA28/2

Drawings and printed material, Gemini, ashtray

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CA28/3

Drawings and photographic material, Medio Oriente, sofa

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CA28/4

Drawings and printed material, La Cassa, mobile kitchen unit

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CA28/5

Drawings and photographic material, Ping Pong, lamp

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CA28/6

Drawings, Tawaraya, bed

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CA28/7

Drawings, Ginza, cabinet

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CA28/8

Drawings, Medusa, table

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CA28/9

Drawings and printed material, Animal Chair, chair

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CA28/10

Drawings, Orinoco, vase

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CA28/11

Drawings, Parana, fruit bowl

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CA28/12

Drawings and printed material, Mutsugoro, coffee set

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CA28/13

Drawings and printed material, Farfalla, lamp

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CA28/14

Drawings, Umeda Stand, lamp

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CA28/15

Drawings, Soshun, chair

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CA28/16

Drawings and photographic material, Getsuen, sofa

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CA28/17

Drawings and photographic material, Lotus, sofa

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CA28/18

Drawings and photographic material, Rose, sofa

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CA28/19

Drawings and photographic material, Anthurium, side table

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CA28/20

Drawings and photographic material, Sakura, chair and sofa

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CA28/21

Drawings and photographic material, RAN–Orchid, sofa

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CA28/22

Drawings and photographic material, Be-Andon, lamp

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CA28/23

Drawings and printed material, Ombra, vase

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CA28/24

Drawings and printed material, Yantra, vase

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