Past Exhibitions


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

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Noguchi + Pratt: An Exhibition
Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - Sunday, June 28, 2015

In spring of 2015, graduate interior design students from Pratt Institute were challenged to draw inspiration from Isamu Noguchi's work.

The students researched Noguchi's history, studied select objects included in the Museum's Highlights from the Collection: Iconic Display exhibition, and applied their knowledge to design a hypothetical annex for the Museum in the Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO.

Part of the project called for students to design a temporary exhibition for the space using the subjects of their research. On display will be design proposals, drawings, and student analyses of Noguchi objects.


Images: Left: Isamu Noguchi. Avatar. 1947 (cast 1983). Photo by Kevin Noble. Right: Carol Andrews. Avatar analytical drawing.

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Noguchi as Photographer: The Jantar Mantars of Northern India
Thursday, January 8, 2015 - Sunday, May 31, 2015

As part of his extended tour to investigate people's daily interaction with civic spaces and sacred sites throughout Europe, Asia, and the Far East, Isamu Noguchi first traveled to Northern India in 1949. Camera in hand, Noguchi discovered the eighteenth-century astronomical observatories in Delhi and Jaipur. Known as Jantar Mantar (translating loosely to "instruments and formulae"), these open-air campuses were comprised of astronomical instruments built on a grand architectural scale. Individual structures measured solar time, the celestial paths of the sun and moon and the latitudes and longitudes of planets and constellations, among other functions.

This exhibition, the first in a series focusing on Noguchi's photographs, will feature a selection from Noguchi's visits to the observatories between 1949 and 1960, a number of which were published contemporaneously in prestigious periodicals. A handful of objects related to Noguchi's interest in linking mankind and its rituals to the cosmos will also be on display, among them his Skyviewing Sculpture for Western Washington University and Sky Gate in Honolulu.

Download the Exhibition Brochure


Photograph by Isamu Noguchi of Samrat Yantra (foreground) and Mishra Yantra (background) at the Jantar Mantar observatory, Delhi, India, 1949

Inside one of the Jai Prakash Yantras (armillary spheres) at the Jantar Mantar observatory, Jaipur, India, 1960

Rashivalaya (Zodiac instruments), at the Jantar Mantar observatory, Jaipur, India, 1949

Secret Garden: The Noguchi Museum at Collective Design Fair 2015
Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - Sunday, May 17, 2015

“If sculpture is the rock, it is also the space between rocks and between the rock and a man, and the communication and contemplation between.”
-Isamu Noguchi

Noguchi’s interest in rock was essentially boundless, encompassing all of its manifestations on earth, and off: in our structures and adornments, religions and myths, the tools we have developed trying to understand and manage our place in the world, and in our imaginations and languages.

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Isamu Noguchi: Variations at Pace Gallery
Friday, February 20, 2015 - Saturday, March 21, 2015

Drawn from the holdings of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum and curated in collaboration with the artist's last and most important dealers, Arne Glimcher and Susan Dunne of Pace Gallery, the exhibition addresses the artist's category-defying range as a world shaper. It will include one of his most significant sets for Martha Graham, Herodiade; an iconic piece of patented play sculpture, Octetra; and sculpture, drawings, functional designs and Akari light sculptures created between 1928, the year he left Brancusi’s studio, and 1988, the year of Noguchi’s death.



Mirror, 1994, bronze

Ding Dong Bat, 1968, white statuary marble, pink Portugese marble

Paris Abstraction, 1928, gouache on paper

Highlights from the Collection: Noguchi Archaic/ Noguchi Modern
Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - Sunday, January 11, 2015

The only thing Noguchi loved more than the promise of the future was the deep sense of belonging he derived from working with billion year old pieces of rock. Noguchi Archaic/ Noguchi Modern explores a stylistic wormhole that seems to link the ancient past and the distant future in his work.

This exhibition has two sources of inspiration outside Noguchi's work. The first is an association that developed in the middle of the 20th century between the Stone Age and the Atomic Era when—after Hiroshima and Nagasaki—it seemed inevitable that atom smashing would culminate in our bombing ourselves, assuming we survived at all, back into the Stone Age. The association between technology and our possible return to a perfectly primitive state is perhaps best encapsulated in the German artist Joseph Beuys' multiple Ein-Stein-Zeit, a blasted-looking picture of a rough basalt column lying on a floor, the perfect circle cut into one end of it a relic of human knowledge. Ein-Stein-Zeit, which translates literally as "a stone time," is German for Stone Age. It is also a pun on the name of the German physicist popularly credited with devising the theoretical foundation for nuclear fission. “Einstein time” can be defined as a period in which, having invented the tools to destroy ourselves, humanity teeters on a knife edge between atom splitting and a return to rock bashing. 

The second inspiration is the monolith at the center of Stanley Kubrik's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which closely resembles both an Egyptian stele and an iPhone. Largely staged in clean, simple spaces—either black and limitless (outer space) or white and rectilinear (the interior of a space ship)—2001 helped establish the science fiction motif, since reproduced ad nauseum, that our departure from Earth in the future will be signaled, precipitated, or impacted by a mysterious Euclidian object probably left here by visitors sometime in the distant past. (Cue pyramids and stone circles.) The further you go into the past or the future, the simpler the design of everything becomes—because of course, the further away something is the harder the details that make it distinct are to discern. The funny thing about simplicity is that somewhere along the way it got tangled up with philosophy, took on moral significance, and in certain contexts—Brancusi’s studio, where Noguchi learned to square a block of stone, being a notable example—became a prescriptive design imperative. Simplicity of form is a foundational principle of abstraction and one of the most important techniques of ambiguity, as Noguchi demonstrates here working at both chronological extremes. 


Image: Tsukubai, 1964





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Isamu Noguchi, Patent Holder: Designing the World of Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - Sunday, January 4, 2015

The proverb "necessity is the mother of invention" comes to mind with regard to Isamu Noguchi's involvement in industrial design beginning in the 1930s. Noguchi's efforts as a designer--he even started a business called Time Design offering a dizzying array of services--were motivated by many factors. His friend, "design scientist" R. Buckminster Fuller, brought an irresistible, missionary zeal to engineering and collaboration with American industry. Noguchi himself was prone to the technological utopianism so prevalent in the late twenties, when it seemed that architects and engineers, working with new materials in a fully mechanized society would be able to cure all the world's ills. When every American, including his early mentor, the educator Edward Rumely, who encouraged him to start Time Design and gave him a clock commission, wanted to be a man of business. Noguchi was also suffering from the limited range of opportunities available to artists during the depression--his proposals for public art being largely too complex and ahead of their time to gain traction from the likes of the Works Project Administration. Finally, in the way which has often been identified as distinctly American, he was fanatically, manically, constitutionally determined to be a Success. So, he channeled his energy into rethinking the design of everyday life.

This exhibition surveys the symbiotic relationship in Noguchi's work between sculpture and design in the years leading up to the 1939 World's Fair. Between 1932 and 1939 he designed cases for an interval clock and a baby monitor; proposed Bolt of Lightning, Memorial for Ben Franklin and Monument to the Plow, a 1,200 ft on a side, tilled and crop-rotated pyramid earthwork surmounted by an abstracted stainless steel plow; invented an internally lighted, musical weather vane; collaborated on several left-leaning architectural projects; designed a swimming pool (unbuilt) for a Richard Neutra house for a famous film director in Los Angeles; helped Fuller shape his Dymaxion Car; and finally created a monumental fountain for Ford Motor Company's World's Fair pavilion, celebrating an abstract assemblage of parts from the company's famous drivetrain. Neither at the time, nor since, has any artist or designer better exemplified the spirit of the 1939 World's Fair, "Building the World of Tomorrow," than Noguchi, who would ultimately hold every recognized intellectual property right (including thirteen US patents) and was among the most versatile designers to walk the planet since the likes of Renaissance do-it-alls like Donatello, Michelangelo and Leonardo.

Patent Holder was developed in response to a borough-wide call to celebrate the 75th and 50th anniversaries of the two Queens World's Fairs of 1939-40 and 1964. The shape the show has taken owes an enormous amount to original research contained in Deborah A. Goldberg's unpublished dissertation Isamu Noguchi: The Artist as Engineer and Visionary Designer, 1918-1939 (Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, 2000).

An expanded version of Isamu Noguchi, Patent Holder: Designing the World of Tomorrow will travel to the Dr. M. T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery at St. John's University (1/15/15 – 3/19/15), and add a fully-illustrated catalog, in a continuing celebration of the anniversaries of Queens’ 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs.

Images from top:
Study for "Musical Weathervane", 1939
Patent Document USD108837: Design for a radio casing (Radio Nurse), 1938