Past Exhibitions


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

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Highlights from the Collection: Reworked
Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - Sunday, February 9, 2014

This summer's installation of highlights from the collection is organized around four instances in which Noguchi returned to an earlier body of work to rethink, redevelop, reproduce or restore it. The first example includes two groups of objects Noguchi made inspired by Constantin Brancusi in the 1930s, following his apprenticeship in Brancusi's studio, when he was still very much under the Romanian's influence and two decades later, in homage to his mentor, following Brancusi's death in 1957. 

The second concerns Noguchi's interlocking sculptures of the 1940s, the majority of which were made in stone. "Remembrance," the original presented here, is a rare example in wood. In the 1970s and 1980s, spurred by demand for these by then widely recognized masterpieces, and concerned about their long-term survival (given their fragility), Noguchi remade a number of them in bronze and aluminum. 

Between Brancusi's Paris studio, where Noguchi first learned to square off a block of stone in 1927, and the marble "laboratories" around Querceta, Italy where, in addition to direct carving, he explored the artistic potential of raw marble blocks fresh from the quarry and the 8' diameter circular saw used to portion them, the nature of Noguchi's work with stone changed significantly. The third group of objects on view includes works from the late 1960s and 1980s in marble that feature a graphic use of the chisel, and whether finished or not, will call to mind Michelangelo's non-finito (unfinished) technique. 

The final grouping comes from several of Noguchi's set designs for Martha Graham. Generally, the Museum shies away from isolating individual set elements from the productions for which they were developed. The point of including them here is to emphasize what it means to make sculpture for use (one of Noguchi's favorite subjects), and not just any use but the incredible abuse delivered by dancers in performance. As a result of the constant need to repair and replace them, most of these set elements exist in several different forms: originals, performance copies, and exhibitions copies-made by the artist and his fabricators, as well as Martha Graham Dance Company. 

Image: Noodle, 1943-1944

Isamu Noguchi and Qi Baishi: Beijing 1930
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - Sunday, January 26, 2014

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 Baish: 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.

Image: Isamu Noguchi, Peking Drawing (Man sitting), 1930 and Qi Baishi, Crabs, c. 1930

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.                                                                        


Space, Choreographed: Noguchi and Ruth Page
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - Sunday, January 26, 2014

Space, Choreographed: Noguchi and Ruth Page was developed in a collaboration between The Noguchi Museum and The Ruth Page Foundation, building on a group of drawings Noguchi made of the great American avant-garde dancer and choreographer Ruth Page posing in a sack dress he designed in 1933 to transform her into a dynamic embodiment of his sculpture Miss Expanding Universe (1932).

That piece had emerged from Noguchi's extensive efforts to find a distinctive way to abstract the human figure- efforts greatly enhanced by his contact with modern dance, and Page's form in particular- his study of ink wash painting with the Chinese painter Qi Baishi, and his best friend, the eccentric futurist genius Buckminster Fuller, a sort of Three Musketeers of American ability and aspiration, had been captivated by a series of lectures popularizing Edwin Hubble's recent discovery that the universe was neither static nor tidily Copernican. It is hard to conceive a better visual metaphor for Hubble's new picture of the universe, a pulsating amoeba of out-rushing matter, than Page in Noguchi's sack dress.

The exhibition explores Noguchi and Page's personal relationship and their two professional collaborations: the constellation of objects and performances that includes Miss Expanding Universe, the dress and the dances it inspired and Page's post- World War II dance The Bells, based on Edgar Allen Poe's poem of the same name, for which Noguchi designed costumes and a set. The exhibition has been scheduled to coincide with Isamu Noguchi and Qi Baishi: Beijing 1930, also on view at the Museum this fall. 


Image: Ruth Page in Isamu Noguchi's Sack Dress 1934, Attributed to Andre Delfau, c. 1970's

Space, Choreographed: Noguchi and Ruth Page is made possible by The Ruth Page Foundation, Thea K. Flaum and Robert A. Hill, Salme Harju and Michael S. Steinberg, and The Davis and Lynn Kravis Family Foundation. 

Highlights from the Collection: Recent Acquisitions
Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - Sunday, September 1, 2013

These pieces come from two major Japanese collections. Highlighted by the stunning "Love of Two Boards" is a major gift of works from Noguchi's friend and collaborator, Tsutomu Hiroi, a famous kite-maker who helped Noguchi develop his Akari light sculptures. The other group comes from the family of an assistant of Noguchi's and features a small centipede which relates to his "Even the Centipede," the great masterpiece of his work in clay, now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. 

As evidenced by the instruction he gave his business manager in the 1980's never to sell any of his ceramics, Noguchi had a particularly proprietary feeling about them. For that reason, we are very pleased to announce and present this important addition to the permanent collection. 

A large selection of Noguchi's ceramics will be included this fall at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, TX in Return to Earth: Ceramics of Fontana, Melotti, Miro, Picasso and Noguchi, 1943-1963, the first exhibition to survey the post-war work of these modernist sculptors in clay. 

Image: Atsumi-san (Washboard figure), 1952

Area 5: Cut and Fold
Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Noguchi's spatial intelligence (his ability to visualize in three dimensions) was extraordinary. He was capable not only of constructing an object composed of many elements in his mind, but rotating it on three axes and placing it in an environment. We live in an age when the wide availability of sophisticated imaging programs has made this ability seem somewhat less exceptional - making it hard to appreciate the difficulties involved in moving an idea from the mind's eye to realization at full scale with graph paper, hand tools and the occasional help of a friend or assistant.

This exhibition looks at three ways Noguchi employed paper as a primary tool for developing and executing work: the well-known but often misunderstood Worksheets for Sculpture he made to conceive, piece out and plan his interlocking stone and wood sculptures, the multilayered collages which help him think through the unique space in which dance and theater sets function and a group of recently rediscovered paper maquettes, along with the cut and folded metal sculptures they generated.

Drawn from the Museum's collection of 1,500 works on paper and 17,000 photographs and documents, Area 5: Cut and Fold is the first in a new series of quarterly exhibitions designed to offer insight into Noguchi's practice, projects, life and career. The exhibition also marks the return of Area 5, after nearly a decade as a video room, to use as a gallery.  

Image: Worksheet for sculpture, c. 1945-47

Isamu Noguchi: We are the Landscape of All We Know
Friday, May 3, 2013 - Sunday, July 21, 2013

Portland Japanese Garden

As part of its 50th anniversary programming, the Portland Japanese Garden presents Isamu Noguchi: We are the Landscape of All We Know , which features 22 works by Isamu Noguchi on loan from the Museum.  Noguchi's work is set against the beautiful backdrop of one of the most highly regarded gardens of its kind outside of Japan.

Full Exhibition List




Asleep in a Rock
, 1966
Image by Kevin Noble