Benefit 2019 Auction



The Noguchi Museum’s 2019 Spring Benefit includes its fifteenth annual silent auction. This year, the Museum is offering two exceptional works by Isamu Noguchi, Kaki-Persimmons, AP from an edition of 12 with 2 APs, and Squirrel, number 5 from an edition of 12 with 3 APs, to be auctioned individually. Proceeds directly support the Museum’s collection.

Advance bids will be accepted until 4 pm ET on Thursday, May 2, 2019.

To make an early bid, contact Jennifer Lorch at 718.204.7088 ext 221 or [email protected]. Bidding will continue during the Spring Benefit and the winning bids will be announced at the end of the event.

Event details & tickets

Isamu Noguchi, Kaki-Persimmons, 1982–88. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York/ARS.Isamu Noguchi
Bronze plate
11 3/4 x 15 1/4 x 7 3/4 inches
AP from an edition of 12 with 2 APs
Starting bid: $30,000
Bid increment minimum of $2,500

Isamu Noguchi, Squirrel, 1984 (fabricated 1988). ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York/ARS.Isamu Noguchi
1984 (fabricated 1988)
Bronze plate
12 1/8 x 7 7/8 x 9 1/4 inches
Number 5 from an edition of 12 with 3 APs
Starting bid: $20,000
Bid increment minimum of $2,500

Kaki-Persimmons and Squirrel are from a series of constructed bronze (and Muntz metal) sculptures Isamu Noguchi produced at the end of his career—following a series of twenty-six pieces in galvanized steel. Both series continued a decades-long interest in using sheet metal to create dimensional but essentially volumeless sculptures by combining, with characteristic virtuosic hybridity, his elementary-school introduction to origami in Japan, an early attraction to Cubist and Constructivist sculpture in New York and Paris, a fascination with the relationship between architecture and sculpture, and his desire to apply American industrial methods and materials to the cause of sculpture and design.

The use of bronze plate was also a winking nod in the direction of the fine arts, with a twist: the pieces are not cast but fabricated. Like so many of Noguchi’s design decisions, the choice of a commercial industrial material was subtle but decisive. Crisp and flat, cut bronze plate loaned a conceptual edge to works otherwise, seemingly, primarily distinguished by a playful biomorphism. For Noguchi, subjecting his work to industrial processes was a typically heterodox way to achieve imperfect, which is to say organic, results.

Kaki-Persimmons is a still-life: two persimmons on the blade of a knife. Persimmons are one of the oldest and most widely cultivated fruits on the planet, giving Noguchi the opportunity to transect time and culture in his usual way. The main difference between Kaki-Persimmons and the numerous old master painting on the same subject is that Noguchi's treatment is pointedly devoid of the thing that makes persimmons such a popular subject–their color–and it is a thing, a still-life subject, like the small bronzes in Matisse’s interiors, that sits on a table rather than an image. This little sculpture is also an aide memoire to one of the great debates in the history of art, recalling as it does two ancient stories about the relative merits of painting and sculpture in creating space: painted grapes so lifelike birds tried to eat them from a wall, and relief sculpture derived from the traced outline of a young man’s shadow.

The galvanized steel Kaki-Persimmons was produced in an edition of twenty-six. The bronze version, which Noguchi chose to make smaller than the one in steel, is in an edition of twelve, plus two artist’s proofs. Only two artist’s proofs have been fabricated. One of those is being auctioned,and the other will remain in the collection of The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum.

Squirrel is another amusingly understated occasional sculpture. Noguchi decided to produce it, he said, because he needed a piece small enough to give as a gift. How very like Noguchi: to give a sheet metal rodent as a present. First because a pet is the archetypal unwanted gift, much less a wild animal, and even less a squirrel, and second because it is so pointedly not what anyone wanting a Noguchi would expect. Gently suffused with irony—harkening back as it does to a form of sculpture not often associated with him: bronze tabletop animalia–Squirrel is nevertheless a small, potent example of Noguchi’s talent for finding spatial interest in all things. He evokes how a squirrel and its tail often seem like different creatures, or an animal and a landscape, by splitting them into separate plates on different planes.

Two working proofs of Squirrel were made in galvanized steel in 1984, but it was never produced in an edition. Noguchi decided to fabricate Squirrel in bronze plate in 1987. The current example is from the edition of twelve produced in 1988, half of which have been fabricated, with three artist’s proofs. There is also a larger version, double the size, for which only two artist’s proofs were made.

Photos: Kevin Noble. © INFGM / ARS.

Event details & tickets