The Noguchi Museum was founded and designed by internationally renowned, Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) for the display of what he considered to be representative examples of his life’s work. Opened in 1985, the Museum is housed in a converted industrial building, connected to a building and interior garden of Noguchi’s design. Located in the vibrant neighborhood of Long Island City, Queens, the Museum is considered in itself to be one of the artist’s greatest works. In building a museum, Noguchi was an early pioneer who led the metamorphosis of the Long Island City area into the arts district it is today, home to cultural institutions such as Socrates Sculpture Park, SculptureCenter, MoMA PS1, and Museum of the Moving Image, among others.
Noguchi designed the Museum complex as an open-air sculpture garden ensconced within a building that houses ten galleries. As a whole, the Museum provides an intimate, reflective space in which to experience Noguchi’s sculpture and design, fulfilling a vision that the artist deemed essential to his life’s work. Visitors enter the two-story, approximately 27,000-square-foot Museum through the celebrated sculpture garden. While the ground-floor galleries and garden contain a permanent presentation of work by the artist, selected from his own collection, since 2004, the Museum regularly presents temporary exhibitions that offer a rich, contextualized view of Noguchi’s work in the upper galleries.
An international center for the study and interpretation of Noguchi’s work, the Museum is dedicated to illuminating the artist’s vision, his experience with sculpture and public spaces, and the legacy of his work on later artists. In order to reach the broadest possible public, The Noguchi Museum offers programs that engage children as well as adults, that provide sign-language interpreters and “touch tours” for the blind and partially sighted, and that bring arts initiatives to New York City’s public schools.
For its first 20 years, the Noguchi Museum was a program of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation, a private operating foundation as established by Noguchi. In 2005, the Foundation and Museum were brought together as a single entity, receiving provisional status as a Museum from the New York State Board of Regents, and as a public charity from the federal government. Today, the Noguchi Museum – chartered as The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum – manages the world’s largest and most extensive collection of Noguchi’s sculptures, architectural models, stage designs, drawings, furniture, and lamps, in addition to his complete archives. It serves the international community by loaning works to other institutions for special exhibitions, and the Museum organizes and curates its own traveling exhibitions. Committed to advancing research, the Museum offers scholars access to the artist’s extensive archives, including his records, correspondences, manuscripts, and photographs.
The Museum Shop makes available much of Noguchi’s work in design. Featured objects include his Akari Light Sculptures, lamps first produced in Japan in the fifties, made from Japanese washi paper and bamboo ribbing; and his furniture designs, including the Isamu Noguchi Table, which continues to be manufactured by Herman Miller, Inc. The Shop also offers other mid-century furniture and objects, by designers George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames. All of the designs are sold to support The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum.