Born in Los Angeles, Isamu Noguchi spent 13 years in Japan before moving back to the United States. He attended Columbia University in New York City with a concentration in pre-medicine, but a sculpture class changed his life’s trajectory when he decided to pursue a career in design. Noguchi drew inspiration from cultures, ethnicities, and multi-media techniques, ranging from Mexican ceramics to Chinese paintings. He went on to study and work in Paris, Mexico, Japan, and China. He eventually settled back in New York City, setting up a studio but continuing to travel. The time he spent across Asia, Mexico, and Europe would influence the wide breadth of his subsequent designs.
What started as a means of showcasing a selection of works that best-defined Noguchi (according to the artist himself) within a two-story building and outdoor sculpture garden, the Noguchi Museum quickly became a New York City landmark for the art and design-savvy, especially as Noguchi garnered fame and influence as a cultural figure. The Noguchi Museum provides a unique experience for the viewer in that it showcases the artist’s work in the artist’s personal space. Situated in Long Island City, Isamu Noguchi’s museum sparked a keen interest in this Queens neighborhood, which has since become home to several other notable institutions, such as Socrates Sculpture Park, MoMA PS1, and the Fisher-Landau Center for Art.
The Noguchi Museum opened to the public in 1985. For the first 20 years, the museum was under Noguchi’s private institution: the Isamu Noguchi Foundation. In 2005, the New York State Board of Regents granted the museum public charity status under the federal government, which merged the museum and Noguchi’s private foundation into one entity. Through this merger, the museum increased its ability to represent Noguchi by making his vision available to a diverse audience. Furthermore, the museum continues Noguchi’s intended mission to educate the public on the importance and beauty of modern and contemporary design through programs, outreach, and events. The institution offers sign-language interpretations, a ‘touch tour’, and a means for New York City public schools to establish stronger art initiatives for children. Admission to the museum is free for children and New York City public school students, and only $5 for university students and senior citizens.
Noguchi carefully selected key pieces in his collection that he felt were authentic reflections of his life, his travels, and of himself as a person and a designer. The upper-floor galleries rotate exhibitions, but the ground floor and outdoor displays are permanent. Today, the Noguchi Museum stands at the forefront of New York City art and design culture.
The Noguchi Museum, 9-01 33rd Road, Queens, NY, USA, +1 718 204 7088.