Past Exhibitions


View photographs and learn more about past exhibitions at The Noguchi Museum and other institutions around the world.

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Another Land: After Noguchi | A Project by Leah Raintree
Wednesday, August 10, 2016 - Sunday, January 8, 2017

Another Land: After Noguchi, an exhibition of photographs by Leah Raintree, extends the more than century-old tradition of astrophotography to consider the microcosms inherent in the sculptures of Isamu Noguchi.

In the summer of 2015, Raintree embarked on a project at neighboring Socrates Sculpture Park that joined two sources of inspiration: her studies of Noguchi’s mark-making on stone and a recent mission by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta space probe, which streamed images of Comet 67P back to Earth while landing a smaller craft on its surface. With the enigmatic photographs taken by Rosetta during its approach to 67P in mind, she reimagined a small granite stone that she sculpted and then photographed as a distant asteroid. Shortly thereafter Raintree began a similar photographic investigation of The Noguchi Museum collection.

Raintree’s work frames the relationship between human activity and its environmental impacts through process, as functions of material and scale. She engages mark-making through drawing, performative interactions with matter, and documentation of found marks within phenomena. Her interest lies in expanded time frames, often embedding distinctly human marks within ambient accumulations that mimic geology. She found a kindred spirit, and an abundance of information, in Noguchi, whose postwar stone sculptures seize on qualities inherent to quarried rock, amplifying fractures and breakages to reveal the geological passage of time—and, correspondingly, set up an extended metaphor for the limited nature of human existence.

Raintree initially focused on Noguchi’s landscape table sculptures. These planes of stone preserve the neatness of the quarry’s processing cuts and effectively become “shaved” material samples extracted from Earth’s geological deposits. Noguchi punctuated them with elevated mounds and plateaus, juxtaposing stippled areas with various degrees of polish, suggesting a muting and a loss of surface detail seen from a great distance. From this starting point, Raintree’s sessions photographing in the galleries expanded to encompass works in stone in all its variations, and further still to Noguchi's hand-formed ceramics, project models, sets, and Akari light sculptures.

Noguchi occasionally engaged professional photographers to visualize the physical space of his early model proposals for landscapes, garden spaces, and the occasional monument, and their completed counterparts. Photography’s necessarily creative fictionalization of sculpture was a tool he used to process his widescreen vision for these projects, and it likewise made its way back into his studio practice. One notable instance, the sole surviving photo artifact of a conceptual model for a proto-earthwork called Sculpture to Be Seen From Mars (1947), a monumental epitaph to Earth’s inhabitants in the form of an abstracted human visage, seems to have planted the seed for Noguchi’s later work with the landscape tables.

With documentary photography already a constant in terms of the presentation and conceptual framing of Noguchi’s work, Raintree’s photographs propose yet another vantage for looking at his sculptures—one that engages the surfaces and material character of his work to recast them in a fictive light as celestial objects. Within his lifetime, Noguchi witnessed the dramatic evolution of astrophotography. Through attentive lighting and framing and an allusive nod towards science fiction (e.g. 2001: A Space Odyssey), Raintree recasts Noguchi’s surfaces as forbidding, barren, depleted, or otherwise uncharted landscapes—a fitting association given Noguchi’s interest in the ecology of our planet and the exploration of others. Raintree’s photographs also support more dystopian interpretations, such as the slate-cleaning return to nothing that may follow a man-made apocalypse. But most importantly, in distilling Noguchi’s hand through visual dislocation and shifts in scale, they turn the sculptures into self-evident formations, thus extending the reach of each stone into the galactic timescale.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated publication with an introduction by Noguchi Museum Director Jenny Dixon and texts by Senior Curator Dakin Hart and Jay Bernstein, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, New School for Social Research, as well as an interview with the artist by Noguchi Museum Associate Curator Matt Kirsch.

Press Release (PDF)

Exhibition Walking Guide (PDF)

Another Land: After Noguchi represents The Noguchi Museum’s ongoing engagement with contemporary artists, writers, designers, musicians, and others as a means of illuminating the scope of Noguchi’s vision and his continuing impact on our culture.

Production assistance for Another Land: After Noguchi was provided, in part, by a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant.

Noguchi's Playscapes (Los Parques de Noguchi)
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - Sunday, October 9, 2016

Presented by Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, Noguchi’s Playscapes is the most comprehensive exhibition to date focusing on Isamu Noguchi's vision of playgrounds and the public space. It includes models, sketches, architectural drawings and photographs, along with full-scale reconstructions of play sculptures and playscapes.

The show revisits some of Isamu Noguchi’s key ideas on how to discuss play, recreation, and education; and thus provokes a reconsideration of these categories within the sense of community that exists in our times. Embracing the possibility of closing the gap between art and functionality, Noguchi fiercely defended the idea that sculpture is an aesthetic and cultural tool capable of smoothing our passage between individuality and society. He took a favorable view of the democratization of art and the public space, inspiring him to create a number of playgrounds and play structures designed to stimulate creative activity as a way of learning about and participating in the world.

The scale models, sketches, set designs, and archival images included in this show—the first of its kind in Mexico—attest to the artist’s fifty-year-long investigation of spaces for play. The Museo Tamayo has created full-scale working reproductions of Noguchi's play sculptures, which were last made in Japan four decades ago. Located both inside and outside the building, these will be accessible to visitors of the museum and of Chapultepec Park. To read more, visit  #LosParquesdeNoguchi

Image: Isamu Noguchi, Maquette for US Pavilion Expo, 1970. Painted plaster. © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, NY.

Isamu Noguchi: Functional Ceramics
Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - Sunday, July 24, 2016

In honor of Tom Sachs: Tea Ceremony, which will include a display of more than 300 of Sachs' handmade porcelain chawan (tea bowls), the Museum is showing a selection of Noguchi's more “functional” ceramics: plates, bowls, trays, and other traditional forms—along with other pieces that play with the notion of use value.

Image: Face Dish (Boku), 1952. Shigaraki stoneware. Photo: Kevin Noble. Homepage: Installation view. Photo: Nicholas Knight.

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Tom Sachs: Tea Ceremony
Wednesday, March 23, 2016 - Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Museum’s 30th-anniversary programming culminates with an installation by celebrated artist Tom Sachs. This major exhibition is the first at the Museum to present work by a single artist other than Noguchi.

The exhibition centers on an immersive environment representing Sachs’ distinctive reworking of chanoyu, or traditional Japanese tea ceremony—including the myriad elements essential to that intensely ritualistic universe.

Among the large stone sculptures by Isamu Noguchi in the Museum’s indoor/outdoor galleries, Sachs has set a tea house in a garden accessorized with variations on lanterns, gates, a wash basin, a plywood airplane lavatory, a koi pond, an ultra HD video wall with the sublime hyper-presence of Mt. Fuji, a bronze bonsai made of over 3,600 individually welded parts, and other objects of use and contemplation. Sachs has also produced a complete alternative material culture of Tea—from bowls and ladles, scroll paintings and vases, to a motorized tea whisk, a shot clock, and an electronic brazier.

Supplementing the tea garden are three additional installations covering consummate examples of Sachs’ Tea tools, a brief history of Tea as it developed out of Sachs’ Space Program 2.0: MARS, and a small retrospective of the artist’s two decade–long career as a cultural hybridizer.

Tom Sachs: Tea Ceremony is accompanied by a 280-page artist’s book, Tea Ceremony Manual, documenting the artist’s culture and practice of Tea. Produced for the exhibition and published by The Noguchi Museum, with additional support from Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Nasher Sculpture Center. Available now in the Museum Shop.

The exhibition will travel to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, in expanded form as Tom Sachs: Space Program 3.0: Europa (from September 16, 2016–January 15, 2017), and to Nasher Sculpture Center as Tom Sachs: Tea Ceremony (from September 9, 2017–January 7, 2018).

To learn more about Tom Sachs, visit

Read more about the show in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Exhibition Walking Guides (PDF)

Tea Ceremonies

The setting and the tools constitute only part of the culture of Tea. As beautiful as they are on their own, they exist to serve a ritual: chanoyu, literally the making of “hot water for tea” and the drinking of tea. The opportunity to connect with nature, time, and each other—to slow down in a constrained environment designed to sit outside reality, in relative simplicity and silence—is the heart of the experience and the culture.

During the course of the exhibition, Tom Sachs and his friend and colleague in Tea, Johnny Fogg, will perform tea ceremony for two or three guests. On these occasions, the walls of the tea house will be removed, enabling all visitors to observe the ceremony. Performances are included with Museum admission.

Tom Sachs: Tea Ceremony is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and Sperone Westwater. Additional support is provided from public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. The exhibition is part of the Noguchi Museum’s 30th anniversary programs, which are made possible, in part, by The Freeman Foundation, The Robert Lehman Foundation, the William Talbott Hillman Foundation, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Images: Tom Sachs cutting Con Ed laminate into cubes for use as charcoal briquettes. Photo: Genevieve Hanson. Tom Sachs collecting water for use in Tea Ceremony. Photo: Mario Sorrenti. Guests are offered a bowl with hot coals to warm their hands. Photo: Mario Sorrenti. Guest cleaning ladle after Purification Ritual. Photo: Genevieve Hanson.

Noguchi + Pratt
Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - Sunday, June 12, 2016

A collaboration between The Noguchi Museum and Pratt Institute, Interior Design.

Each Spring, Pratt Institute's Interior Design Graduate Level Qualifying Design Studio course asks students to draw inspiration from Isamu Noguchi's work. This year, students chose objects from the Museum's permanent collection on long-term view and Highlights from the Collection: Design Into Art exhibition to research and incorporate into a hypothetical Noguchi Museum Annex in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Work from all participating students is exhibited at The Noguchi Museum in the lower-level gallery; including drawings, examples of object analysis, and four select student projects in their entirety.

Image: Isamu Noguchi, Strange Bird, 1945. Bronze. Photo: Kevin Noble.

Artists at Noguchi | Sarah Cahill Performs Mamoru Fujieda's Patterns of Plants
Wednesday, February 24, 2016 - Sunday, February 28, 2016

For one week in February, the chill and grey skies of winter will dissipate for visitors to The Noguchi Museum’s ground-floor galleries, where internationally celebrated pianist Sarah Cahill will take up residence, performing Mamoru Fujieda’s stunning cycle of short pieces titled Patterns of Plants throughout the Museum’s opening hours.

A masterpiece by one of the leading postminimalist composers, Patterns of Plants (1996–2011) represents an extraordinary fusion of nature and technology. To create the piece, Fujieda measured the electrical impulses on the leaves of plants using the "Plantron," a device created by botanist/artist Yūji Dōgane, and converted the data he obtained into sound with Max, a visual programming language used for music and multimedia. He then identified musical patterns within the sound, and used them as the basis for these miniatures.

Both captivating and profound, Patterns of Plants has been arranged for different instruments and ensembles. In 2014, Cahill made the first solo piano recording of it to be available outside of Japan, released on the Pinna Records label.