Noguchi Museum

I learned two things whilst visiting this museum: (i) Isamu Noguchi designed a lot of interesting stuff in addition to that ubiquitous glass-topped coffee table now found in corporate waiting areas the world over; and (ii) there is an unexpectedly substantial amount of arts and culture to be found in Queens, New York.

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Despite being home to the Noguchi museum amongst other interesting galleries and institutions (the Museum of Moving Image is also well worth a visit), Queens is still a somewhat ungentrified neighbourhood. It is, by turns, residential and industrial, filled with uninspiring low-rise buildings and warehouse-type structures. It doesn’t help that the Noguchi museum, seemingly together with all of the other galleries and museums in Queens, are all situated a very, very long walk away from the subway.

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I’d say that the Noguchi museum is worth the trek though: it’s housed in an interesting converted industrial building, made up of ten galleries on different levels with an open-air sculpture garden at its centre. Its contents are intended to be a greatest hits compilation of Noguchi’s work (mainly carved blobs of marble and stone of varying sizes in aesthetically pleasing shapes and colours). That corporate coffee table inevitably features.

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The garden is filled with Noguchi’s larger, outdoor sculptures and is unsurprisingly, Japanese-themed given Noguchi’s heritage. Cherry blossom trees, lots of rocks, the sound of trickling water and very high walls mean that it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of Queens, New York.

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The Museum Shop, where you can buy a number of Noguchi’s works (unfortunately excluding the stone blobs), is pretty good too. 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 that corporate coffee table. You can also buy other mid-century staples including George Nelson clocks and Eames chairs though I can’t think why you’d buy them here – they’re not exactly an impulse museum gallery shop buy.

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