The Isamu Noguchi Museum in New York
There are signs everywhere begging you not to, but at some point during your visit to the Isamu Noguchi Museum, you're going to succumb to the urge: you are going to touch at least one of the stone, metal, wood or clay sculptures that are the centerpiece of this lovely little museum. Maybe just for a compulsive instant, maybe for a furtive, more sustained caress, but trust me, Isamu Noguchi's best work–and there is a lot of it here, at Long Island City's Noguchi Museum–is irresistible.
The Noguchi Museum in NYC was designed by the artist himself in 1985 (he converted an industrial photogavure plant and gas station across the street from his studio), then renovated and expanded five or six years ago. Home today to the world's largest collection of Noguchi's work, the Noguchi Museum is truly one of New York City's great treasures, all the more so for being slightly tucked away among the warehouses of Long Island City. But don't let the seemingly remote location discourage you: on a nice spring or summer day, this is one of our favorite excursions, taking the N or Q to the Broadway stop, then walking the ten or so blocks to the river. And the great Socrates Sculpture is right down the street from the Noguchi Museum, so combining the two makes for an excellent weekend (or, heck, weekday) afternoon of art, and quiet, and picnicking, and exploring.
The Noguchi Museum's permanent collection, featuring the artist's big, best-known sculptures, is spread throughout the beautiful ground-floor galleries and sculpture garden. Some of Noguchi's work, whether made from wood or stone, is so smooth and inviting it's hard not to fantasize how cool and gentle it would feel against your cheek. Other pieces are rocky, rough-hewn, scarred with striations, and with an intense visual density. Still others masterfully combine textures, or sometimes shapes, in unique, provocative ways. We've been to the Noguchi Museum in New York at least a half dozen times over the years, and these sculptures, in this setting, never fail to take our breath away.
On the Noguchi Museum's second floor you'll find a rotating selection of the artist's smaller sculptures, as well as his architectural models, stage designs, drawings, lamps, and furniture. Again, it is difficult not to want to run your hand over many of these pieces–how does he get wood to look so inviting to the touch?–but beyond their visceral impact, it's up here where you can really see Noguchi's mind at work. Ever since he was a young man, from the 1920s until his death in 1988, Noguchi has been fascinated by and driven to create for the planet's public spaces, whether that ambition manifests itself in (mostly, and sadly, unrealized) plans for fantastic playgrounds, or his massive, magnificent earthworks. As a friend of ours pointed out years ago, it's rare (and welcome) that such an accomplished and aesthetically ambitious artist was also always so active in sharing his vision with the everyday world.
The Noguchi Museum Details
The Noguchi Museum in New York is located in Long Island City, Queens, on 33rd Road between Vernon Boulevard and 10th Street (it may sound very non-Manhattan-y and complicated, but it's really simple to find), and is open on Wednesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday 11:00 until 6:00. Closed Monday and Tuesday. For more information, directions by car, and lots more images, please see the Noguchi Museum website.