Akari Unfolded: A Collection by YMER&MALTA, at the Noguchi Museum, presents a selection of 26 lamps created by the leading French design studio in collaboration with five designers. Over the last nine years, YMER&MALTA founder Valérie Maltaverne has breathed extraordinary life into what the French call savoir faire (“know how”) a shorthand for France’s centuries-old luxury craft industries. YMER&MALTA employs multiple designers (emerging and established) and artisans (traditional and cutting edge), with whom Maltaverne collaborates in the role of auteur.
Noguchi conceptualized his own anti-nostalgic engagement with craft cultures as the true development of old traditions. Akari, his most complete and important expansion of the envelope of sculpture—and the apotheosis of his efforts to give the past a new future—was, like Maltaverne’s work in savoir faire, on the scale of industry. YMER&MALTA’s current project, the first to reach outside French craft, came out of a 2016 visit to The Noguchi Museum during which Maltaverne decided to apply her model to Akari. The challenge was to see whether she might — treating Akari as the tradition — extend its fundamental alchemies.
Ultimately, YMER&MALTA’s original, modest plan to produce six designs on Akari principles developed into a massively complex international collaboration with six designers, and artisans in more than 20 different disciplines. Overcoming many technical hurdles, they pushed linen, metal, resin, Plexiglas, concrete, and paper in new directions and produced 29 light fixtures — which now join the radiant, ever-expanding legacy of Noguchi’s Akari.