Noguchi Museum in Long Island

Open studio visits to see how an artist or craftsman works may seem like a common thing to do today. The visits today are also not exclusive to gallerists and collectors, but a democratic act, often fuelled and operated by the artist themselves. With annual events that encourages artists’ studio tours and completed architecture masterpieces to be visited by the general public, in comparison to the eighties, was quite the opposite. Artist Isamu Noguchi was one of the first artists to open his working studio in Long Island, New York to the general public, started off on a seasonal basis at that time. Through that gesture, one can see Noguchi’s openness, transparentness and spirit of sharing which extends beyond his work.


Noguchi Museum in Long Island, New York. Image by Von Chua.

Today, the Noguchi Museum is an established museum, however, it did not always operationally run as a museum. The openness and pioneering spirit of Noguchi can be seen beyond the act of the artist opening up his studio to his peers and the general public. At the museum, you will also find all displayed artworks with precise documentation and labelling to learn more about each piece. This is not by chance but the cumulation of work that began seven decades ago. Since the 1950s, Noguchi himself and his small team have methodically collated information related to the development of Noguchi’s work. Titles, dates, ownership, sizes and materials are the basic information one can expect to see. By the 1990s, the documentations were extremely thorough, and a book titled The Sculpture of Isamu Noguchi, 1904-1979: A Catalogue was published. As if that was insufficient, the extensive documentation exercise was also further supplemented by a full appraisal of the artist’s estate. The appraisal then lead to the documentation of some previously unrecorded artworks; the catalogue raisonné today provides a wealth of information from a verified source to explain each piece of artwork ever produced by Isamu Noguchi.


Magic Ring (1970) by Isamu Noguchi in Persian travertine. Image by Von Chua.

Since 2014, the artist’s spirit of sharing, innovation and in the exchange between the East and the West was extended through the form of the Isamu Noguchi Award. Linking pioneers and leaders within various design-related industries, the award encourages crossovers between different specialists and different continents. Below are the names of all the recipients:

  • In 2014: Norman Foster (British Architect) and Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese Artist)
  • In 2015: Jasper Morrison (British Product Designer) and Yoshio Taniguchi (Japanese architect)
  • In 2016: Tadao Ando (Japanese architect) and Elyn Zimmerman (American Sculptor)
  • In 2017: John Pawson (British architectural designer) and Hiroshi Senju (Japanese painter)
  • In 2018: Naoto Fukasawa (Japanese product and furniture designer) and Edwina von Gal (American landscape architect)
  • In 2019: Rei Kawakubo (Japanese fashion designer)
  • In 2020: David Adjaye (Ghanaian-British architect) and Cai Guo Qiang (Chinese artist)
  • In 2021: Shio Kusaka (Japanese ceramic artist) and Toshiko Mori (Japanese architect). Both are based in the United States.
  • In 2022: Daniel Brush (American jeweller and artist) and Thaddeus Mosley (American sculptor)

Through this award, Noguchi’s spirit of sharing continues to influence today’s living artists, designers, architects, fashion designers and product designers. The conscious act of selecting two award receipients who would unlikely cross paths creates the opportunity for the exchange of ideas from one specialist to another specialist - the legacy of Noguchi’s spirit of sharing lives on.


The Sun at Midnight (1973) by Isamu Noguchi in granite. Image by Von Chua.

Before leaving the Noguchi Museum, a stop by the museum shop is recommended because of the extensive availability of Akari lighting sculptures plus a small selection of limited edition pieces by Isamu Noguchi. Looked after by a shopkeeper with passion and an in depth knowledge of the Akari lamps, there is a high likelihood you will be able to find the exact Akari lamp model you are looking for. This is the most complete set of Akari lighting sculptures seen all under one roof. Seeing all the works displayed at once and in the order of the museum’s displays, from the oversized stone at the museum’s entry to the lighting sculptures made of paper that one could purchase to take home, was a beautiful experience.


An extensive availability of Akari lighting sculptures by Isamu Noguchi. Image by Von Chua.

The Garden Museum receives generous sunlight and a subtle breeze. It is small but designed to be inward looking and has a sense of enclosure - being surrounded by stone sculptures, it is not to be missed especially when weather permits a slow morning or afternoon. To visit The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum:


Address: The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, 9-01 33rd Road (at Vernon Boulevard), Long Island City, New York 11106.