While en route to Japan for his first time since childhood, Isamu Noguchi paid an unexpected visit to Beijing (then called Peking) from July 1930 to January 1931. A fateful encounter with a Japanese businessman and art collector, Sotokichi Katsuizumi (1889–1985), exposed the young artist to Katsuizumi’s small collection of scrolls by the poet, seal carver, and traditional ink painting master Qi Biashi (1864–1957). Noguchi was entranced by what he saw, and asked to be introduced to Qi Baishi whom he observed and studied with.
Organized by the University of Michigan Museum of Art in a collaboration between The Noguchi Museum, Isamu Noguchi and Qi Baishi: Beijing 1930 explores this pivotal but lesser-documented moment of Noguchi’s career, which resulted in some 100 ink scroll paintings. This exhibition marks the first pairing of Noguchi’s scrolls with those by Qi Baishi, which have been selected from the same period, alongside the seal that Qi made for his young pupil. Prior to meeting Qi Baishi, Noguchi’s sculptural work effectively jumped between figuration and abstraction. This exhibition suggests the lasting significance of his study of traditional ink brush technique with Qi Baishi was less a point of departure than a stimulus for his reconciliation of the two in his later outlook on sculpture.
Isamu Noguchi and Qi Baishi: Beijing 1930 is organized by the University of Michigan Museum of Art in collaboration with The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York.
Lead support for this exhibition is provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art, the National Endowment for the Arts, the W.L.S. Spencer Foundation, and the Freeman Foundation. Additional support is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies and Confucius Institute, and the Blakemore Foundation.