#9  December 2000    

Christmas greeting from thousand chairs--Keiji Nagai
 Here you will see some pictures of Christmas cards sent to us by Keiji Nagai in past few years.
Each year at Christmas, he makes a greeting card printed with a picture of himself surrounded by his chairs different from the preceding cards. So he has already introduced hundreds of his collection in his Christmas cards.
Keiji is a cousin to my husband Den Okochi. Keiji is famous as an interior-coordinator who owns nearly one thousand chairs of contemporary design.
 He is the director of how to furnish Yoyokaku, and he is the person who always denies my bad taste of decorating Yoyokaku. With a grim face he scolds me: Harumi, why don't you remove these ugly devises from this beautiful room? Those ugly devises are always necessary things for the staying guests, like telephone, TV set, lamp and stationery! Then I fight against him. Sometimes he wins, other times I win.
 To introduce him, I would like to quote an article from a magazine . The original article was in Japanese. Please forgive me for the poor translation.

 BRUTUS 2000/15/AUGUST published by MAGAZINE HOUSE, Japan
Special edition "100 chairs 100 years"
The serial collector written by Yudai Tachikawa

A chair attracts me not only with its function of sitting on it, but also with its beauty as a sculpture.

 A chair is a narcotic. Once it sneaks into your consciousness, it will never free your mind from it. But usually, your finance or space to store them would harness your desire.
Here is a man, Keiji Nagai, who has been obsessed by chairs for more than 30 years. The name "Nagai" has become widely known in the furniture business. Who is Nagai? What does he aim at....?
On a quiet street in Fukuoka City. One room of an apartment house is his studio. Stepping into this some 60 square-meter room, I could not believe my eyes. A numerous collection of table-wares, books, clocks, industrial designs like audio-apparatuses, and ... chairs. Most of the pieces are the ones highly esteemed in the history of modern design. Even rare items you can find here too. Don't think I am exaggerating. You will be amazed to see this quantity, with which you could establish a museum of design right away, and you will wonder how only one man could do this. Not only the quantity. The quality of each item will also impress you. Mr. Nagai smiled at our amazed faces and said "I've been doing this foolish thing for quite a time.'
He had a foot in the world of modern design when he entered the business of interior designing as a staff of a department-related company. As you noticed right now, he himself is an interior designer. He got to know those foreign magazines like "MD" of Germany, or "Mobilia" of Denmark that is out of publishing now, and he was gradually become addicted in the world of modern design in those magazines.
 "How I wish I could really sit on these chairs!" A young man of 20 years of age repeatedly went to Tokyo saving his living expenses. His commemorative first step of collecting chairs was "Superleggera", a renowned work by Gio Ponti, which costed him more than his one-month's salary, and "Carimate" by Vico Magistretti (both from Cassina Co.) After 30 years, almost one third of the year is spent in Europe or in USA searching for chairs. His collection grew up to be more than 900 pieces.
This makes me wonder if this collection is just for the business study of an interior designer. What made him do this?
"I have been a collector since I was a child," says he, but is it the only answer?
His real start was when he knew the collection of MoMA(Museum of Modern Art in New York)"It would be nice if I could coordinate something beautiful in daily life. And I found that was the modern design."
The beauty of function inspires his imagination to extend to the way of living itself, like: to match this chair, the total interior of the room should be that person's design, or, for this cup that kind of opportunity and that kind of drinks is suitable. The reason why Mr. Nagai collects chairs above all is "I was attracted by the sculptural beauty of the chair as well as by the function of sitting on it."
The deepest motivation of his collecting things is that "he likes it" but he finds more joy in "tracing" a chair than in "owning" it. It fulfills his detective instinct. He almost perfectly remembers how he found the chairs by tracing whose informations and connections in which stores in what places. "This unbelievable collection was achieved only with the unremunerated cooperation of my friends."
He is enjoying the humane communication in the course of collecting things, as though it seems that he is absorbed in his egoistic hobby of collecting things. One of the modern age's problems is how to communicate with others, but probably Mr. Nagai's method of communication is the collecting of chairs. What proves my theory is his many friends in Paris, Milan, Berlin, Copenhagen and New York who whole-heartedly welcome his re-visit. To pay a visit to his old friends, he goes on a journey again to search for things.
In 1997, Mr. Nagai was awarded "The Furniture Prize" by the government of Denmark, together with another Japanese. His cultural dedication to the country through furniture was esteemed. This prize had been given to those like Hans J. Wegner and Borge Mogensen, but never given to a foreigner before Nagai.
It was Nagai's enthusiasm, his continuing will, and his characteristic that made this achievement possible. In the course of our interview, we were just overwhelmed, and Mr. Nagai remained smiling his gentle smile.

 You know, we are very proud of this cousin, and we hope you will see and enjoy his effort of making Yoyokaku better and better. Together with Mr. Schri Kakinuma, the architect who is taking care of the renovation of Yoyokaku for these 20 years, Keiji tries to build up his own world here. Why? He doesn't answer, but I know the reason. He does it because this is the place he belongs to.
Thank you again for coming to my web-page, and I wish you a very happy new year and a very chairful new century! 


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