“Robert Kuo is the late 20th early 21st Century representation of the imperial artisan.” – Clarence Shangraw, chief curator emeritus, for the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Tsui Museum of Art, and The Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art
Robert Kuo’s story bridges the gap between ancient Chinese and 20th century traditions. Born in Beijing, he moved with his family to Taiwan in 1947. Raised in an artistic environment, his father was an art professor and Chinese watercolor painter who started a cloisonné atelier where Robert Kuo became an apprentice at age fifteen. Although he never engaged in formal art studies, Kuo gained technical expertise and learned about decorative tradition from hands on training. He soon mastered the basics that would serve him throughout his artistic career.
Kuo shifted his focus from working in cloisonné to repousse, the art of hammering decorative relief onto metal. Instead of applying enamel to a copper base, the artist began to experiment with applying different finishes to the hammered base. Kuo looked to China for artisans experienced in ancient techniques and trained craftsmen to adapt their skills to repousse forms and objects. Today, he spends four to six months of the year in China to create new pieces, which are then finished in Los Angeles.
Robert Kuo offers a wide variety of decorative objects, from small tabletop pieces to furniture and large landscaping elements. The work can be seen around the world, from the National History Museum in Taipei to exclusive hotels such as the Singapore Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco’s Hotel Palomar, Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Villas and New York’s Four Seasons. Kuo’s work also belongs to the private collections of Geoffrey Beene, Gianfranco Ferre, and James Galanos. His work has been featured in the world’s leading lifestyle, design and architecture magazines.
Kuo is inspired by organic forms found in nature, as well as the timeless motifs of the Chinese Han and Ming dynasties, often combining them with Deco and Nouveau influences. He has designed collections for the Kohler Interiors Group, including six lighting collections for McGuire Furniture, as well as a Limited Edition Furniture Collection and a Second Limited Edition Furniture Collection. For Baker Furniture, he has designed an Accessories and Lighting Collection; he also created the Wavelet and Zen plumbing collections for Ann Sacks Stone and Tile. In addition, Gump’s in San Francisco offers special pieces designed by Kuo, and holds a Kuo exhibition twice a year.
Called “the imperial craftsman of the 21st century,” Kuo reinterprets the past for the present and future and has an avid and enthusiastic base of collectors that await his new designs.