2020 Benefit and Isamu Noguchi Award

November 16, 2020

On November 16, 2020, The Noguchi Museum held a virtual celebration and presentation of the seventh annual Isamu Noguchi Award to architect Sir David Adjaye OBE and artist Cai Guo-Qiang. The silent auction included two works by Isamu Noguchi: Linga, unique AP, and Messenger 2B, edition 2 of 6 with 2 APs, that were each auctioned individually.

The event began with the official co-naming of Isamu Noguchi Way with Deputy Leader of the New York City Council Jimmy Van Bramer and Brett Littman, Director of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum. The virtual format, unique to 2020, offered the opportunity to share extended conversations with the honorees to reflect on their own work and profound connections with Isamu Noguchi. In October, Littman visited Cai at his Frank Gehry-designed studio and home in Chester, New Jersey, for the artist’s first interview held at his property since the pandemic. Cai shared reflections on his years of living in Japan and how he sees the influence of the country in his own work and Noguchi’s, his multidisciplinary approach, and experiences of working during the pandemic. In November, writer, editor, and Noguchi Museum trustee Spencer Bailey sat down in the Museum’s galleries for a long-distance conversation with Sir David Adjaye. Joining from Accra, Ghana, Adjaye reflected on relationships between sculpture and architecture, his own formative experiences in Japan, geography and climate, materiality, and memory. 

The benefit raised critical funds for the Museum’s exhibitions, educational programs, and research, and for the care for its renowned collection. If you would like to make a gift to support our work in extending and preserving Noguchi’s legacy, please make a donation here. For more information, contact Melissa Gatz at benefit@noguchi.org or 718.204.7088 ext 229.

Messenger 2B in Area 1 of the Museum

2020 Benefit Auction

The annual Benefit auction also raises critical support for the Museum. This year, two editioned works by Isamu Noguchi, Linga and Messenger 2B, were offered. The auction took place online starting Monday, November 9, at 8 am EST. Bidding closed on Monday, November 16, at 8:30 pm EST. 

Auction Details

2020 Honorees

David Adjaye
Photo: Chris Schwagga

David Adjaye

Sir David Adjaye OBE is a Ghanaian-British architect who has received international acclaim for his impact on the field. Born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents, his influences range from contemporary art, music and science to African art forms and the civic life of cities. In 2000, he founded Adjaye Associates, which today operates globally, with studios in Accra, London, and New York and projects spanning across the globe.

Known for his ingenious use of materials and his sculptural ability, David Adjaye has established himself as an architect with an artist’s sensibility and vision. His projects range from private houses, bespoke furniture collections, product design, exhibitions, and temporary pavilions to major arts centers, civic buildings, and master plans. His largest project to date, The National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC opened on the National Mall in Washington DC in 2016 and was named Cultural Event of the Year by The New York Times. In 2017, Adjaye was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and was recognized as one of the 100 most influential people of the year by TIME Magazine.

In addition to the National Museum of African American History & Culture, other completed works include: Ruby City, a new art center in San Antonio, Texas; The Webster, a new flagship retail space in Los Angeles; the Sugar Hill Mixed-Use Development, in Harlem, New York; two neighborhood libraries in Washington, D.C.; the Alara Concept store in Lagos, Nigeria; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado; the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art at the Hutchins Center at Harvard University; the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo; the Idea Stores—two community libraries in London.

Ongoing projects include a new home for The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; 130 William, a high-rise residential tower in New York’s financial district; the new Sydney Plaza, a public plaza, community building and artwork in Sydney’s Central Business District; The Abrahamic Family House, an interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi; the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London; and the the National Cathedral of Ghana in Accra.


Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang was born in 1957 in Quanzhou, China. He was trained in stage design at the Shanghai Theatre Academy from 1981 to 1985, and his work has since crossed multiple mediums within art including drawing, installation, video, and performance. Guo-Qiang began to experiment with gunpowder in his hometown Quanzhou, and continued exploring its properties while living in Japan from 1986 to 1995. This inquiry eventually led to the development of his signature outdoor explosion events. Drawing upon Eastern philosophy and contemporary social issues as a conceptual basis, his artworks respond to culture and history and establish an exchange between viewers and the larger universe around them. His explosion art and installations are imbued with a force that transcends the two-dimensional plane to engage with society and nature.

Cai Guo-Qiang was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 1999, the Hiroshima Art Prize in 2007, and the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2009. In 2012, he was honored as a Laureate for the prestigious Praemium Imperiale, which recognizes lifetime achievement in the arts across categories not covered by the Nobel Prize. In the same year, he was named as one of the five artists to receive the first U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts for his outstanding commitment to international cultural exchange. His recent honors include the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation Award in 2015 and the Bonnefanten Award for Contemporary Art (BACA), the Japan Foundation Awards, and the Asia Arts Award Honoree in 2016.

His many solo exhibitions and projects over the past three decades include Cai Guo-Qiang on the Roof: Transparent Monument at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2006 and his retrospective I Want to Believe, which opened at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 2008. Cai served as Director of Visual and Special Effects for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. His solo exhibition Da Vincis do Povo toured across Brazil in 2013, traveling from Brasilia to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. It was the most visited exhibition by a living artist worldwide that year, attracting over one million visitors. In June 2015, Cai created the explosion event Sky Ladder in his hometown Quanzhou. The artwork became the centerpiece of the Netflix documentary Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang, directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald. Fireflies, his largest public art project in the United States in the past decade, launched in Philadelphia in September 2017.

Major solo exhibitions in 2017 included October at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow and The Spirit of Painting at the Museo del Prado, Madrid. In 2018, his explosion event City of Flowers in the Sky was realized above Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence and marked the opening of his solo exhibition Flora Commedia at the Uffizi Galleries. Latest solo exhibitions in 2019 include In the Volcano at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, The Transient Landscape at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, and Cuyahoga River Lightning at the Cleveland Museum of Art. His latest explosion event, Encounter with the Unknown: Cosmos Project for Mexico, was realized on November 8.

He currently lives and works in New York.

Benefit Supporters
Alex Adler
Peter Agoos
Lucy Anda Hardison
Naomi S. Antonakos
Sarah Arison
Richard Armstrong and Dorsey Waxter
Roland Augustine
Spencer Bailey
Abby and Matt Bangser
Inma Barrero and Ion Yadigaroglu
Frances Beatty and Allen Adler
Candace and Rick Beinecke
William L. Bernhard
Erik Bierbauer and Joanna Holzman
John Cahill
Laurence Carty and Paola Antonelli
Lisa and Dick Cashin
Neal Cohen and Nanaho Kamei
DeWitt Stern, a division of Risk Strategies Company
Tyler Donaldson and Janet Chan
Susan Dunne
Diane and Barry Eisenstat
Anne-Marie and Peter Embiricos
Zette Emmons
Katherine and Luke Fichthorn
Christiane Fischer and Bernd Harling
Eileen and Andrew Fisher
Rob Forbes
Katherine Frazer
Galerie Lelong & Co., New York
Susan Gates
George Nakashima Woodworkers
Anne Gilman and David Unger
Marc Glimcher
Deborah Goldberg
Lizelle Green
Amelia Grohman
Agnes Gund
Nancy and Dakin Hart
Marine Hartogs and Maximilian Coreth
Amy Hau
Herman Miller
Amy Hochman
Andrea and David Holbrook
Steven Holl and Dimitra Tsachrelia
Yanyan Huang
Christina Hunt
ITO EN (North America) INC.
J.C.C. Fund, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York
Eileen and Peter Jachym
Noriko and Shigesuke Kashiwagi
Kasmin Gallery
Courtney Kass
Thomas Kearns and Michele Tortorelli
Rebecca Kelly
Susan and Peter Kessler
Robin and David Key
In memory of Anne Grilk King
Tom Korns and Kathy Buto
Miwako Kurashima
Lucy W. Lamphere
Wanhsiu Lee
Jennifer and Steven Lorch
Nancy Lorenz and Doug Schwalbe
Susan and Glenn Lowry
Marian Goodman Gallery
Jonathan J. Marvel
Wells and Jessica Mason
Jane Matsumoto, Japanese American Cultural & Community Center
Kathy Mele
Steven Merrill
Toshiko Mori
Satoru and Hiroko Murase
Stephen Noerper
Jennifer and Malcolm Nolen
Pace Gallery
Jorge Palacios
Monique Péan and Stephen Glass
Joyce Pomeroy Schwartz
Jane Richards
Alex Ross and Andy Augenblick
Christine and John Rumely
Jane Dresner Sadaka and Ned Sadaka
Mrs. Cecilia Scanlon
Phyllis and Leonard Seevers
SEIZAN Gallery
Hiromi and Hiroshi Senju
Aaron Schiller, Schiller Projects
Cindy Sherman
Sarah and Stephen Sherrill
Stephen and Kitty Sherrill
Speyer Family Foundation
Galia and Axel Stawski
George and Sheila Stephenson
Sundaram Tagore
Billie Tsien and Tod Williams
Susan Wald Douglas
Wendell Walker
Ian Wardropper
Carol R. Warner and Ned Cooke
Pae White
Anthony Williams
Clark Winter
Richard Wright
Patricia Wyatt
Kazumi Yanai
Kulapat Yantrasast


The Noguchi Museum gratefully acknowledges the following individuals and companies for their generosity of time and assistance with the Benefit.

Spencer Bailey
Co-Founder, The Slowdown; Co-Host, Time Sensitive;
Editor-at-Large, Phaidon

Lord Norman Foster
Founder and Executive Chairman, Foster + Partners
2014 Isamu Noguchi Award Honoree

Thelma Golden
Director and Chief Curator, The Studio Museum in Harlem

Alexandra Munroe
Senior Curator, Asian Art, and Senior Advisor, Global Arts, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Alex Meillier and Tanya Ager Meillier
Ager Meillier Films Inc.

Footage from the film Isamu Noguchi, 1972,
directed by Michael Blackwood
Courtesy of Michael Blackwood Productions

Noguchi Museum film is derived from History of the Noguchi Museum, a video tour produced in 2020 for the Museum’s mobile guide on Bloomberg Connects, made possible through the generous support of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Footage from Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang, a Netflix Documentary, Copyright © 2016 by Great Wall Star Media, LLC and DJM Holding Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Event Production
Crossfire Sound Productions

Website Development
For Office Use Only

Invitation Design
Yeju Choi
nowhere office

Special Thanks
Luisa Alves, Marissa Glauberman, and Alexandria Galloway
Adjaye Associates

Sang Luo, Lydia Ohl, Frannie Trempe, and Lulu Zhang
Cai Studio


Image Credits
Sir David Adjaye images courtesy of Adjaye Associates
Portrait of Sir David Adjaye: Chris Schwagga

Cai Guo-Qiang images and footage provided by Cai Studio
Portrait of Cai Guo-Qiang: Lin Yi
Additional photographers and videographers:
Shanshan Xia, 33 Studio, Araki Takahisa, Daxin Wu, Hiro Ihara, John Zich, Sang Luo, Masanobu Moriyama, Elio Montanari. Harry Heuts, courtesy Bonnefantenmuseum. Anders Sune Berg, courtesy Faurschou Foundation.

Works by Isamu Noguchi and photographs from The Noguchi Museum Archives
© The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum / Artists Rights Society
Additional photographers: Berenice Abbott, Jun Miki, Eliot Elisofon, Rudy Burckhardt, Michio Noguchi, Dan Budnik, Ruiko Yoshida, David Finn, Nicholas Knight, Elizabeth Felicella

Set for Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring (1944)
Courtesy of Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, Inc. / Martha Graham Resources

Lord Norman Foster. Photos: Carolyn Djanogly, Croci and du Fresne
Hiroshi Sugimoto. Photo: Courtesy of Sugimoto Studio
Event photographer: Nilaya Sabnis

Jasper Morrison. Photo: Kento Mori
Yoshio Taniguchi. Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Event photographer: David X. Prutting / BFA

Tadao Ando. Photo: Kinji Kanno
Elyn Zimmerman. Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Event photographer: David X. Prutting / BFA

John Pawson. Photo: Cindy Palmano
Hiroshi Senju. Photo: Courtesy of Senju Studio
Event photographer: Benjamin Lozovsky / BFA

Naoto Fukasawa. Photo: Courtesy of Naoto Fukasawa Design
Edwina von Gal. Photo: Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin
Event photographer: Benjamin Lozovsky / BFA

Rei Kawakubo. Photo: Paolo Roversi / ©Comme des Garçons
Event photographer: Benjamin Lozovsky / BFA

Isamu Noguchi Award Honorees