The Noguchi Museum was founded and arranged by the well-known Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988). Spread over a total area of 87 acres and located in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens. The museum was opened in 1985 in a former industrial building. Isamu Noguchi himself was involved in the development of the project and the exhibition space.
Noguchi received his first art commission from UNESCO, an institution for which he arranged the gardens around the central offices. But this was only the first step in a career that proved to be truly remarkable, Noguchi then building the gardens of many other important institutions and corporations.
His mother was American, his father, Japanese – his origins played an extremely important role in the direction that his art would take. That is why Noguchi’s art embraced both cultures. As for the museum itself, Noguchi’s idea was simple: he wanted to give life to an open-air museum, in which the sculptures give the strange impression that they were formed naturally in the space, that they are part of the landscape. Moreover, the artist wanted the style of his sculptures to reflect his artistic philosophy, a philosophy according to which art speaks about nature and vice versa, a context in which the two are dependent on each other.
Passing the museum building, one could easily think that art is nowhere to be found anywhere close, given the industrial feel of the neighborhood. Both the garden and the interior galleries sharply contrast with the exterior image of the museum. No less than ten galleries are housed inside. As a whole, the museum offers an intimate and meditative space where visitors have the chance to admire Noguchi’s sculptures. Before enjoying the ten galleries, visitors will pass through the charming garden that art critics have described as a “sculpture of spaces”, in the sense that Noguchi created spaces for meditation, in abstract forms, with fountains and other Japanese cultural elements.
But the garden crafted by Noguchi is more than what is visible at first sight. The artist himself said that this art, in Japanese culture, “belongs to the positioning of stones”. At the same time, through his art he wanted to emphasize that he still remains a Western artist, which is why his sculptures are open, they “do not hide”. Visitors with a keen sense of observation will be able to admire the ingenious way in which light, for example, falls on Noguchi’s sculptures, contrasting with the casted shadows.
For a short period of time, Noguchi worked together with Constantin Brâncuși, a Romanian sculptor and one of the most influential art figures of the twentieth century. He famously once said, “Nothing can grow under the shade of a big tree”. I can only say I am grateful Isamu Noguchi applied that piece of advice in his own life, leaving behind a rich legacy – with the museum as its most elegant epitome.