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  Name   Isamu Noguchi (野口 勇)
  Born   November 17, 1904
  Died   December 30, 1988


  Official website   www.noguchi.org

Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) was one of the twentieth century’s most important and critically acclaimed sculptors. Through a lifetime of artistic experimentation, he created sculptures, gardens, furniture and lighting designs, ceramics, architecture, and set designs. His work, at once subtle and bold, traditional and modern, set a new standard for the reintegration of the arts.

Noguchi, an internationalist, traveled extensively throughout his life. (In his later years he maintained studios both in Japan and New York.) He discovered the impact of large-scale public works in Mexico, earthy ceramics and tranquil gardens in Japan, subtle ink-brush techniques in China, and the purity of marble in Italy. He incorporated all of these impressions into his work, which utilized a wide range of materials, including stainless steel, marble, cast iron, balsa wood, bronze, sheet aluminum, basalt, granite, and water.

When Noguchi’s mother Léonie Gilmour met his father, she was a young writer and editor living in New York City. Gilmour was a white American of mostly Irish descent born in Brooklyn. His father Yonejiro Noguchi, an itinerant Japanese poet, was Asian. Noguchi was born in Los Angeles, but moved to Japan with his mother at the age of two and lived there until the age of thirteen. In the summer of 1918, Noguchi returned alone to the United States to attend high school in Rolling Prairie and then La Porte, Indiana, adding yet another layer to an increasingly complex identity. (He proudly identified as a “Hoosier” for the rest of his life.)

After high school he moved to Connecticut to work briefly for the sculptor Gutzon Borglum, and then to New York City to attend Columbia University. While enrolled there as a premedical student, he also began taking evening sculpture classes on New York’s Lower East Side with the sculptor Onorio Ruotolo at the Leonardo da Vinci School of Art. He soon left the university to become an academic sculptor, supporting himself by making his first portrait busts.

In 1926, Noguchi saw an exhibition in New York of the work of Constantin Brancusi that profoundly changed his artistic direction. With a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Noguchi went to Paris, and in 1927 worked in Brancusi’s studio. Inspired by the older artist’s forms and philosophy, Noguchi turned to modernism and abstraction, infusing his highly finished pieces with a lyrical and emotional expressiveness, and with an aura of mystery.

Returning to New York City as well as traveling extensively in Asia, Mexico, and Europe in the late 1920s through the 1930s, Noguchi survived on portrait sculpture and design commissions, proposed landscape works and playgrounds, and intersected and engaged in collaborations with a wide range of luminaries. Noguchi’s work was not well-known in the United States until 1940, when he completed a large-scale sculpture symbolizing the freedom of the press, which was commissioned in 1938 for the Associated Press Building in Rockefeller Center, New York City. This was the first of what would eventually become numerous celebrated public works worldwide, ranging from playgrounds to plazas, gardens to fountains, all reflecting his belief in the social significance of sculpture.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the backlash against Japanese Americans in the United States had a dramatic personal effect on Noguchi, motivating him to become a political activist. In 1942, he cofounded Nisei Writers and Artists Mobilization for Democracy, a group dedicated to raising awareness of the patriotism of Japanese Americans; and voluntarily entered the Colorado River Relocation Center (Poston) incarceration camp in Arizona where he remained for six months.

Following his release, Noguchi set up a studio at 33 MacDougal Alley in Greenwich Village, New York City, where he returned to stone sculpture as well as prolific explorations of new materials and methods. His ideas and feelings are reflected in his works of that period, particularly the delicate slab sculptures included in the 1946 exhibition Fourteen Americans at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Noguchi did not belong to any particular movement, but collaborated with artists working in a range of disciplines and schools. He created stage sets as early as 1935 for Martha Graham, beginning a lifelong collaboration; as well as for Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins, and George Balanchine and composer John Cage. In the 1960s, Noguchi began working with stone carver Masatoshi Izumi on the island of Shikoku, Japan; a collaboration that would also continue for the rest of his life. From 1961 to 1966, he worked on a playground design with the architect Louis Kahn.

Whenever given the opportunity to venture into the mass-production of his designs, Noguchi seized it. In 1937, he designed a Bakelite intercom for the Zenith Radio Corporation, and in 1947, his glass-topped table was produced by Herman Miller. This design and others—such as his designs for Akari light sculptures which were initially developed in 1951 using traditional Japanese materials—are still being produced today.

In 1985, Noguchi opened The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum (now known as The Noguchi Museum), in Long Island City, New York. The Museum, established and designed by the artist, marked the culmination of his commitment to public spaces. Located in a 1920s industrial building across the street from where the artist had established a studio in 1960, it has a serene outdoor sculpture garden, and many galleries that display Noguchi’s work, along with photographs, drawings, and models from his career. He also indicated that his studio in Mure, Japan, be preserved to inspire artists and scholars; a wish that was fulfilled with the opening of the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum Japan in 1999.

Noguchi’s first retrospective in the United States was in 1968, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. In 1986, he represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. Noguchi received the Edward MacDowell Medal for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to the Arts in 1982; the Kyoto Prize in Arts in 1986; the National Medal of Arts in 1987; and the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Japanese government in 1988. He died in New York City in 1988. 


The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum


November 17
Isamu Noguchi is born at Los Angeles County Hospital, the only child of Léonie Gilmour (1873–1931) and Yonejiro (Yone) Noguchi (1875–1947). Yonejiro, a Japanese poet, and Léonie, an Irish-American writer and educator, met in New York in 1901 when Léonie took a job as Yone’s editor and translator during his brief stay in the city. They were never officially married, and Yone had returned to Japan three months prior to Léonie giving birth. Their son is given no name at the time of his birth while Léonie waits for Yone’s input on a name via letter.


Léonie and her mother, Albiana Smith Gilmour, purchase a plot of land outside of Pasadena, California, and construct a small wood shelter for a home. Léonie works as a typist, stenographer, and bookkeeper, and continues to edit for Yonejiro. In correspondence, they discuss the idea of Léonie moving to Japan with their child, whom she calls “Yosemite.”


Yonejiro begins a relationship with a servant in his household in Japan, Matsuko Takeda. She gives birth to Isamu’s eldest half-sister, Hifumi, in December 1907.

Léonie writes to Yonejiro with her decision to remain in California with their child. By fall, she reverses her decision.


March 9
Léonie and her son sail to Japan from Los Angeles via San Francisco aboard the Mongolia. Yonejiro meets them when they arrive in Yokohama on March 26. He soon gives his son the name “Isamu.” The family lives together occasionally, but Yone spends most of his time working and living in Kamakura.

Léonie begins teaching English in Tokyo. By the fall, her pupils include two children of Patrick “Lafcadio” Hearn (Yakumo Koizumi) (1850–1904) and Setsu Koizumi (1868–1932).


Léonie and Isamu move to 90 Myogadani Street in Tokyo’s Kishikawa district.


Léonie takes a part-time job teaching English at the Kanagawa Prefecture Girls’ Higher School in Yokohama, while continuing to take on private pupils and working as a typist for Yonejiro.

Léonie and Isamu move to Iriai Sanno in Tokyo’s Omori district; Isamu enters Morimura Kindergarten.


Léonie and Isamu move to the seaside town of Chigasaki in Japan’s central Kanagawa Prefecture.


January 27
Isamu’s half-sister, Ailes Gilmour (1912–1993), is born to Léonie Gilmour. The identity of her father, though not believed to be Yonejiro, is never divulged by Léonie.


Léonie writes in a letter to her friend Catherine Bunnell that Yonejiro has married Matsuko Takeda. Léonie, who had been going by the name Léonie Noguchi since her arrival in Japan, returns to using her maiden name, Gilmour. Isamu begins English-language school at Yokohama’s Saint Joseph College, an international school for expatriates, registered as Isamu Gilmour.

Léonie buys a triangular-shaped plot of land in Chigasaki with the financial aid of Catherine Bunnell. She commissions a carpenter to build a similarly shaped four-room, two-story house. Isamu learns Japanese woodworking techniques by assisting the carpenter.


Isamu begins to express interest in traveling to America, going as far as planning passage from Yokohama to Los Angeles, via Honolulu and San Francisco, where he could stay with his aunt Florence.

Léonie takes a job teaching at a school for English-speaking students in Yokohama, while continuing to teach at the Kanagawa Prefecture Girls’ Higher School and taking on private pupils.

Léonie, Isamu, and Ailes move to Yokohama to be closer to Léonie’s work and Isamu’s school.


Léonie corresponds with her friend Catherine Bunnell (Mitchell) in California about Isamu’s continued interest in traveling to the United States. She also mentions visiting the American consul, which had notified her of potential difficulty in establishing her American residency, as a woman would take her husband’s nationality. She requests special consideration, due to the fact that Yone never entered her or Isamu in his family registry. Since Isamu was born in the United States, she notes, he could claim American citizenship if he spent time in the country.

After learning about the experimental Interlaken School in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, Léonie requests and receives a prospectus from the school.

Léonie works as secretary to Scottish journalist John W. Robertson Scott, editor of New East magazine, living in Tokyo and returning to Chigasaki to join Isamu and Ailes on her days off.

October 2
The house in Chigasaki is severely damaged by a typhoon. The family lives in Yokohama while repairs are completed.


Léonie submits an application for Isamu to attend the Interlaken School, a progressive boarding school for boys in Rolling Prairie, Indiana. In early June, she receives confirmation that he can attend, beginning with summer camp, and prepares for his quick departure.

June 27
Isamu departs Yokohama aboard the Fushimi Maru, arriving in Seattle on July 11. From Seattle, he travels by train to Chicago, and then on to Rolling Prairie, Indiana by train. He arrives at the Interlaken School in July and attends the summer session.

The Interlaken School unexpectedly closes for wartime use; Isamu remains on the grounds with two caretakers and the military recruits. Leonie is asked for advice by the school superintendent via telegram, and replies asking school staff for assistance in placing Isamu in high school in La Porte, Indiana.

By October 14, Léonie writes to school staff of her efforts to return to the United States. By October 15, the Interlaken school grounds have been converted for military use as Camp Roosevelt, a Students’ Army Training Corps (SATC) camp. Isamu remains on the grounds of the after its conversion to Camp Roosevelt, surviving an outbreak of Spanish Influenza among the troops.

Enrolled in public school in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, under the care of C. A. Lewis, the former treasurer of the Interlaken School.


Befriended by Interlaken School founder, Dr. Edward A. Rumely (1882–1964), who places Isamu in the home of a Swedenborgian minister, Dr. Samuel Mack, in La Porte, Indiana. Attends La Porte High School.


January 25
Léonie and Ailes leave Japan for the United States, departing Yokohama on the Nanking, destined for San Francisco. The ship arrives at port on February 11.


Graduates from La Porte High School. Rumely arranges an apprenticeship for Noguchi with sculptor Gutzon Borglum (1867–1941) in Connecticut and raises funds for him to begin premedical studies at Columbia University in New York.

Week of June 15
Attends performances of Ballet Egyptien (at the Capitol Theatre, New York) where he meets Doris Niles, for whom he will later make a portrait bust.

Moves to New York and stays with the Rumely family on Riverside Drive.


Enrolls in the premedical program at Columbia University, New York.

Spring or summer
Léonie moves from San Francisco to New York, taking an apartment at 39 East 10th Street, where Isamu joins her.

Returns to La Porte, Indiana, to work as chauffeur for Emmett Scott, president of La Porte Outing & Sulky Company.


Léonie encourages Isamu to take an evening sculpture class at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He studies with sculptor Onorio Ruotolo (1888–1966) and continues to commute to Columbia during the day for his premedical studies.

Ruotolo provides Noguchi with a studio space at 39 East 14th Street. Noguchi is elected member of the National Sculpture Society on Ruotolo’s recommendation; leaves Columbia to devote himself to sculpture; begins referring to himself as Isamu Noguchi.

Some of Noguchi’s earliest sculptures are exhibited at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School.

Moves his studio to 127 University Place with the assistance of Rumely. Works in the academic style.

November 11
Photographed while sculpting a model of Gutzon Borglum’s Seated Lincoln at Essex County Courthouse in Newark, New Jersey.

Begins creating portraits of Rumely family members. Portrait commissions would serve as an important source of income throughout the next two decades of Noguchi’s artistic practice. These commissions would include portraits of many of the major figures of the times, including those from the arts, society, and international politics.


Begins a portrait of Doris Niles (1904–1998), among the first of many portraits Noguchi would sculpt of important figures from the world of dance, theater, and the movie industry.


Creates his first work for theater, masks for Michio Ito’s (1892–1961) performance of William Butler Yeats’s At the Hawk’s Well.

Frequents Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, An American Place, and the New Art Circle of J. B. Neumann.

January 31
First known group exhibition including Noguchi’s work is held, the 121st Annual Exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Receives honorable mention at the Grand Prix de Rome competition, held at the Grand Central Art Galleries in New York City, where his work is also exhibited.

May 10
Appears on stage at the Neighborhood Playhouse, New York, in The Grand Street Follies. Noguchi would later sculpt portraits of the Follies choreographer, Albert Carroll, and fellow performer Edla Frankau.

Visits exhibition of the work of Constantin Brancusi (1876–1937) at the Brummer Gallery in New York.


February 3
The Membership Committee of the National Sculpture Society (New York) approves Noguchi for Associate Membership.

Awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for travel to Paris and the Far East.

Departs New York for Paris. Stops in London on his way to Paris where, with a recommendation from Michio Ito, Noguchi meets the painter Nina Hamnett (1890–1956), a member of Brancusi’s small circle of friends.

Arrives in Paris; arranges an introduction to Brancusi and begins working as the sculptor’s studio assistant; studies sketching at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and Académie Colarossi and meets other artists, including Alexander Calder (1898–1976), Morris Kantor (1896–1974), Stuart Davis (1892–1964), Marion Greenwood (1909-1970), and Andrée Ruellan (1905–2006).

Leaves his position as Brancusi’s studio assistant; establishes a studio at 7, rue Belloni (now rue d’Arsonval) in Gentilly and begins working in bent metal, wood, and stone, and experimenting with kinetic and neon sculpture.


Travels to London; studies Eastern art at the British Museum.

Reapplies to the Guggenheim Foundation for an extension of his grant; the fellowship is renewed in March for the term of one year; returns to Paris.

Moves his studio to 11, rue Dedouvre in Gentilly; studies with Mateo Hernandez (1884-1949) and creates abstract sculptures and gouache drawings.


Reapplies to the Guggenheim Foundation for a second extension or reappointment of his grant; the fellowship is not renewed; sublets his Gentilly studio and returns to the United States.

March 6
Departs France via the Cherbourg port, aboard the Olympic. Arrives in New York on March 13.

Establishes a studio on the top floor of Carnegie Hall; later moves his studio to a hotel at Madison Avenue and 29th Street; meets architect-inventor R. Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983) at Romany Marie’s bistro in Greenwich Village and dancer-choreographer Martha Graham (1894–1991). Continues sculpting portraits of friends and taking on formal portrait commissions.

First one-person exhibition is on view at Eugene Schoen Gallery featuring abstractions and at least two sculptures from Paris.

Receives honorable mention in the Grand Prix de Rome competition for the second time at the Grand Central Galleries.


Returns to Paris with money made from portrait commissions; after two months, travels to Moscow, Russia, and then to China via the Trans-Siberian Railway; arrives at Harbin in central Manchuria, then travels south to Peking (Beijing); establishes a studio at 18 Ta Yang Mao Hutung.

Sotokichi Katsuizumi, a Japanese businessman, introduces Isamu Noguchi to wen-jen hua painting master Qi Baishi (Ch’i Pai-shih,1863–1957); studies traditional brush drawing under Qi Baishi.


Sails from Tianjin, China, to Kobe, Japan, on the Nanrei-maru; travels on the Fuji Special Express to Tokyo Station.

Meets Yonejiro at the Marunouchi Hotel in Tokyo, their first meeting in more than fourteen years.

February 10
Writes letter to the gallerist Marie Sterner noting that he heard through the painter Edward Biberman that Sterner was arranging a show pairing him with fellow sculptor Chana Orloff in Buffalo and expressing his thanks to her. Noguchi also says he has been in Japan for fourteen days and that he got on well with his father and that his uncle has given him a place in which to work.

Visits his uncle, Totaro Takagi, a Buddhist priest who offers him his house in the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo; also visits Nitobe Inazo (1862–1933) whose portrait Noguchi would sculpt in 1934 in stainless steel, and through whom he meets Charles Lindbergh (1902–1974) and the Marquis Tokugawa Iesato (1863–1940); Iesato takes Isamu Noguchi to his first sumo wrestling stable, which inspires him to create a terra-cotta figure of sumo champion Tamanishiki San’emon (1903–1938).

Establishes a studio in the Kodenma-cho district of Tokyo; completes portrait heads of his uncle Takagi and his uncle’s housekeeper.

Departs Tokyo for Kyoto; establishes a studio in the Higashiyama district; visits gardens, temples, and the Imperial Museum of Kyoto (now part of the Kyoto National Museum) where he develops an interest in haniwa.

Meets Jinmatsu Uno, counterfeiter of T’ang period figurines via a recommendation from Jiro Harada, head of the Imperial Household Museum, Tokyo; studies with Uno and produces a series of terra-cotta sculptures, including Chinese Girl (1931), which was sculpted in China but cast at this time in Japan.

First group exhibition in Japan at the Ueno Art Gallery, Tokyo. A cast of Chinese Girl is exhibited.

Departs Yokohama for Hawaii; returns to New York; establishes a studio at 58 West 57th Street, “The Sherwood Studios,” and continues to take on portrait commissions.

The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, acquires Ruth Parks (1929), the first sculpture by Noguchi to enter a museum collection.


Designs the bakelite casing for the Measured Time kitchen timer, his first industrial design to be mass-produced.

Travels to Chicago to arrange an exhibition; meets dancer-choreographer Ruth Page (1899–1991) through Alexander Calder at a concert at the Arts Club.

Evicted from his studio in New York; returns to New York and moves his studio to a storefront space at 446 East 76th Street.

Applies again to the Guggenheim Foundation for a second extension or reappointment of his grant; the fellowship is not renewed.

The final issue of Shelter magazine is released featuring a cover photograph of Miss Expanding Universe (1932) and a back cover photograph of Glad Day (1930), as well as an essay by Isamu Noguchi titled “New Building in Japan.”

November 2
Ruth Page’s The Expanding Universe, a dance inspired by Isamu Noguchi’s sculpture Miss Expanding Universe (1932), premieres in Fargo, North Dakota, featuring a jersey sack costume designed by Noguchi in collaboration with his half-sister, Ailes Gilmour.


Relocates his studio to the Hotel des Artistes, One West 67th Street, New York.

The first full-length essay on Isamu Noguchi, written by Julien Levy, is published in Creative Art.

February 1
The New York Times announces the sale by auction of fifty of Noguchi’s pencil-and-ink drawings, to be held that day by order of the sheriff because of unpaid rent.

March 23
Travels with Dorothy Hale (1905–1938) and A. Conger Goodyear (1877–1964), sailing from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, aboard the Colomia, arriving in New York on March 27.

Travels to Paris and London; establishes a studio for two months in the London suburb of Chiswick.

December 8
Departs London via Southampton aboard the Europa, arriving in New York on December 17.

December 31
Léonie Gilmour dies in New York.


With an introduction from New Yorker magazine critic Murdock Pemberton (1888–1982), proposes Play Mountain to New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888–1981); Moses rejects the proposal.

Proposes projects to the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) but is rejected.

February 7
Attends the premiere of Four Saints in Three Acts by Gertrude Stein, held at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. He arrives with Clare Boothe Brokaw (later Luce) and Dorothy Hale in a Dymaxion car driven by Buckminster Fuller.

Relocates his studio to 239 East 44th Street; rents a studio at the Woodstock artist colony in New York State for six months.


Marie Harriman Gallery in New York presents a solo exhibition of Isamu Noguchi’s new works and public project models.

March 26
Flies from Havana, Cuba, to Miami with society figure Francise Clow.

April 28
Martha Graham’s Frontier premieres at the Guild Theatre in New York, featuring Noguchi’s first set design for Graham.

Drives to California; stays in Hollywood working on projects and portraits.

Travels to Mexico City where sisters Marion and Grace Greenwood are working on murals at the Mercado Abelardo L. Rodríguez under the direction of Diego Rivera (1886–1957). The Greenwoods offer Noguchi part of their space to work on, and Noguchi begins construction of a sculptural mural in colored cement, History Mexico, completed in early 1936.


July 1
Departs Mexico City via the port of Vera Cruz aboard the Orzaba, arriving in New York on July 7.

Alfred H. Barr Jr. (1902–1981) founding director of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, includes Noguchi in the second exhibition of a series of five devoted to Barr’s theory of movements in modern art, Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism.

December 20
Martha Graham’s Chronicle premieres at the Guild Theatre in New York featuring a set designed by Noguchi.


Returns to New York; establishes a studio in a carpenter’s shack at 211 East 49th Street. Rents a second space to the sculptor Ahron Ben-Shmuel, who instructs Noguchi on carving hard stone.


Zenith Radio Corporation begins manufacturing Radio Nurse (1937).

Awarded his first major commission in the United States for the creation of a frieze for the Associated Press Building at Rockefeller Center, New York.

Designs Chassis Fountain (Ford Fountain), in magnesite, for the Ford Motor Company building at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.


Moves his studio to 52 West 10th Street, New York.

Works on the full–scale plaster original for the Associated Press commission in New York before it is shipped to General Alloys Company in Boston. Beginning in August, travels to Boston to supervise stages of the frieze’s fabrication into stainless steel before his eventual hands-on involvement in the final stages of welding and grinding.

Designs his first table, a commission from A. Conger Goodyear, president of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.


April 29
The Associated Press Building frieze, News, is unveiled at Rockefeller Center.

Travels to Hawaii at the invitation of the Dole Company, in connection with a possible commission to redesign a company reception room; meets Honolulu Parks Commissioner Lester McCoy and proposes a set of playground equipment for Ala Moana Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.

July 12
Departs Honolulu aboard the Lurline, traveling to San Francisco.


Early Winter
Proposes the Ala Moana Park playground models to the New York City Parks Department but is turned down; returns with the proposal Contoured Playground but is again turned down.

Drives to San Francisco with Arshile Gorky (c. 1902–1948), Agnes Magruder (Gorky’s fiancée), and the painter Urban Neininger (1906–1985). Is living in Hollywood when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.


Organizes Nisei Writers and Artists Mobilization for Democracy in California with Larry Tajiri, Shuji Fujii, and others; attends hearings led by California Representative John Tolan of the House Select Committee Investigating National Defense Migration on the removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast; travels to New York and Washington, D.C., in an attempt to draw attention to the relocation policies.

May 12
Voluntarily enters Colorado River Relocation Center in Poston, Arizona, hoping to be of assistance by improving the environment of internees; proposes ideas for a park and recreation area and a cemetery.

November 12
Departs the Colorado River Relocation Center in Poston, Arizona.

Returns to New York; establishes a studio at 33 MacDougal Alley.


Attends meetings of the India League of America; meets Vijaua Lakshmi Nehru Pandit (1900–1990) and her daughter Nayantara (Nayantara Sehgal, b. 1927).

Makes his first illuminated sculptures; works in wood and carved stone and creates mixed-media sculptures.


Organizes the Arts Council of Japanese Americans for Democracy with Yasuo Kuniyoshi (1893–1953) and Minoru Yamasaki (1912–1986).

May 7
Martha Graham’s El Penitente reopens at the National Theatre in New York featuring Noguchi’s set design, a redesign of the original Arch Lauterer set from 1940.

October 30
Three Martha Graham productions premiere at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.: Appalachian SpringHérodiade, and Imagined Wing—all featuring Noguchi’s set designs.

Begins a new series of sculptures using slab-marble remnants from building resurfacing and his first series of furniture designs.

Time & Life’s new “Information Center” opens to the public in the lobby of the company’s Rockefeller Center headquarters, featuring plaster ceiling reliefs and lighting designs by Noguchi.


Travels to Ohio to visit the Great Serpent Mound; designs a plan with Edward Durell Stone (1902–1978) for Jefferson Memorial Park, Saint Louis, Missouri (unrealized).

May 16
Erick Hawkins’s John Brown premieres at the National Theatre in New York, featuring Noguchi’s set design.


January 23
Martha Graham’s Dark Meadow premieres at the Plymouth Theatre in New York, featuring Noguchi’s set design.

April 26
Ruth Page’s The Bells premieres at the Chicago Lyric Theatre, featuring set and costume designs by Noguchi.

May 10
Martha Graham’s Serpent Heart (renamed Cave of the Heart in the 1947 production) premieres at the McMillin Theatre at Columbia University in New York, featuring Noguchi’s set design.

October 26
Shut Not Your Doors, a recital by Martha Graham’s student Yuriko, premieres in New York and features set design by Noguchi.

The exhibition Fourteen Americans at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, elicits new praise for works such as Noguchi’s Kouros (1946).


Nicolas Calas (1907–1988) includes Noguchi in the surrealist exhibition Bloodflames at the Hugo Gallery in New York.

February 26
Erick Hawkins’s Stephen Acrobat premieres at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York, featuring set design by Noguchi.

February 28
Martha Graham’s Errand into the Maze premieres at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York, featuring set design by Noguchi.

May 3
Martha Graham’s Night Journey premieres at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York, featuring set and costume designs by Noguchi.

May 18
Merce Cunningham and John Cage’s The Seasons premieres at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York, featuring set and costume designs by Noguchi.

July 13
Yonejiro Noguchi dies in Tokyo.


Herman Miller’s 1948 catalogue, its first produced under its Director of Design, George Nelson (1908–1986) includes Noguchi’s glass-top coffee table (IN-50), which had been manufactured as part of Nelson’s first collection in 1947.

February 17
Yuriko’s Tale of Seizure premieres at Maxine Elliott’s Theatre in New York, featuring set design by Noguchi.

April 28
George Balanchine’s ballet Orpheus premieres at the New York City Center of Music and Drama, featuring set and costume designs by Noguchi.

August 13
Martha Graham’s Diversion of Angels, (titled Wilderness Stair for the first performance) premieres at the Palmer Auditorium at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut, featuring set design by Noguchi.

July 21
Arshile Gorky commits suicide weeks after Noguchi and Wilfredo Lam drive him from New York to his Connecticut home.

Creates furniture designs for two private homes: two tables for Samuel Dretzin, and a table, chairs, and andirons for William A.M. Burden.


Gifted a Leica camera by photographer Milton H. Greene in exchange for designs.

Sublets his MacDougal Alley studio to Burr Miller, who in turn sublets his own studio across the hall to Herbert Matter.

Herman Miller begins manufacturing Noguchi’s Rudder Dinette Table and Chairs, and Free-form Sofa and Ottoman.

Noguchi’s first solo gallery exhibition in New York since 1935 is held at the Charles Egan Gallery.

Awarded a travel fellowship from the Bollingen Foundation for his proposed book on environments of leisure, to be titled “The Study of Leisure.”

Begins his Bollingen-funded travels in Europe, touring sites in France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and Greece; in Paris, visits Brancusi, Le Corbusier, Léger, Breton, and Giacometti; in Rome, meets Philip Guston at the American Academy; in Marseilles, visits the construction site of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation (completed 1952).

July 23–30
Attends Congrès internationaux d’architecture moderne (CIAM) in Bergamo, Italy, with Le Corbusier, Josep Lluís Sert, Roland Penrose, and Lee Miller.

August 17–September 3
Travels to Greece; visits the Acropolis and Delphi with guide Natalia Mela; visits Olympia, Daphni Monastery, and Epidaurus, Mycenae, and Knossos.

Travels to Cairo, Egypt, and visits Saqqara, Luxor, and Abydos. Meets the architect Hassan Fathy in Cairo.

September 14–October
Arrives in Bombay (Mumbai); stays with the Sarabhai family in Ahmedabad; flies to Madras (Chennai) where he stays with Uday Shankar (1900–1977); spends several weeks touring Tamil Nadu before departing for Sri Lanka, where he stays for ten days; returns to India and visits villages and sites in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka before returning to Bombay.

Tours caves and temples in Maharashtra; visits Sanchi; from Bombay, travels to Bengal and Orissa.

Tours Guwahati (Assam) and Shillong (Meghalaya); travels the Manipur Road to Nagaland and Manipur; returns to Bengal; visits Bodh Gaya at the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Bihar; spends two weeks in New Delhi; works on a portrait of Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964); travels to Uttar Pradesh and visits the Taj Mahal; stops in Jaipur and visits the Elephanta Caves before returning to Ahmedabad, Bombay, and Madras (Chennai).

December 1949–January 1950
India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964), commissions a portrait at the end of Noguchi’s stay in India.


Ownership of the MacDougal Alley studio building changes, and the building is condemned.

January 4
Martha Graham’s Judith premieres at the Columbia Auditorium in Louisville, Kentucky, featuring set design and costume accessories by Noguchi.

January 3–11
Stays in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Early January
Travels to Java, Indonesia, where he runs into Henri Cartier-Bresson who advises Noguchi on new photography equipment for his travels, and refers him to Olden Camera Co.

After leaving Bali, delayed in Java by the damage and loss of his camera equipment. His plans to travel to Bangkok and then on to Angkor Wat are put on hold for two weeks. Begins to consider extending his travels through the fall. Creates a portrait of Indonesian President Sukarno (1901–1970) while in Djakarta (Jakarta).

Leaves Djakarta for Bangkok, and continues on to Angkor Wat. Contracts a stomach illness in Angkor Wat. Continues on to Saigon and then to Hong Kong, planning to travel next to Japan.

Travels to Japan for the first time after almost twenty years; his arrival receives media attention and he is welcomed by young artists and architects, including Kenzo Tange (1913–2005) and the Japan Abstract Art Club; spends May in Tokyo and meets with his late father’s family, including his half-brother Michio Noguchi (1931–1999) who assists him during his stay.

Travels with Saburo Hasegawa (1906–1957) to Ise, Nara, and Kyoto to visit temples and gardens.

Agrees to vacate his studio at 18 MacDougal Alley, pending the building’s demolition.

Meets designer Isamu Kenmochi (1912–1971), who offers Isamu Noguchi a studio at the Industrial Arts Research Institute (IARI), Tokyo; begins a two-week residency making sculpture and furniture at the IARI; collaborates with Kenmochi and Yoshiro Taniguchi (1904–1979) on a memorial garden and faculty room honoring Yonejiro Noguchi at Keio University in Tokyo.

August 18–27
First solo exhibition in Japan opens at the Mitsukoshi Department Store, featuring new works completed while in Japan and at the IARI.

Delays his return to New York in order to meet Mayor Hamai of Hiroshima. The architect Kenzo Tange has suggested Noguchi as a possible collaborator to Hamai for the Peace Park in Hiroshima that Tange is planning.

Returns to New York.

Meets movie actress Yoshiko (Shirley) Yamaguchi (1920–2014), at a kimono fashion show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Eighteen-month grant from the Bollingen Foundation expires, but is extended by six months.


Invited by Audrey Hess, wife of ARTNews editor Thomas B. Hess, to design a playground for a site at the United Nations’ new headquarters in New York. Noguchi’s design, with architect Julian Whittlesey, is reviewed by New York Parks Commissioner Robert Moses and rejected in 1952. The proposal model is shown at the Museum of Modern Art in April 1952, and although groups from other cities express interest in adapting the design, it is never built.

Returns to Japan; Yamaguchi joins him one month later; works on a garden for the new Reader’s Digest Building in Tokyo, his first realized garden project.

Travels to Gifu and visits the lantern factory of Ozeki and Co. Ltd., where he begins to design Akari light sculptures. Visits Hiroshima with Kenzo Tange to explore a possible commission to design bridge railings for the new Peace Park.

Accompanies Yamaguchi to Hollywood where she films King Vidor’s Japanese War Bride; works on the Hiroshima bridge railing designs and the United Nations playground.

Included in the first Bienal de São Paulo in Brazil.

Yamaguchi formally announces her engagement to Isamu Noguchi.

Noguchi returns to sites in Europe and India with Yamaguchi before arriving in Tokyo.

Officially invited by Kenzo Tange and the mayor of Hiroshima to submit a design for a cenotaph for Tange’s Peace Park in Hiroshima.

Receives his first commission from Gordon Bunshaft (1929–1990) of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to develop a lobby courtyard for SOM’s Lever Brothers building, then under construction.

December 15
Marries Yoshiko Yamaguchi in an informal ceremony at the Meiji Shrine in Japan. In the evening, a dinner is held at Han-nya-en in Tokyo.


The first Akari models are put into production and become available in Japan.

February 27
Noguchi’s plan for a Memorial to the Dead of Hiroshima at Kenzo Tange’s Peace Park is rejected by a supervising committee of the city of Hiroshima.

Kitaoji Rosanjin (1883–1959) offers Noguchi and Yamaguchi use of a 200-year-old farmhouse on his property in Kamakura; Noguchi establishes a studio by building and excavating a space beside the farmhouse, and with access to Rosanjin’s kilns, begins a series of ceramic sculptures and objects.

Begins exploring options for exhibiting his new ceramics and lighting designs.

Late August or early August–September 15 
Visits Imbe, an area famous for Bizenware in the mountains south of Kobe, to work on ceramics.

September 23–October 19
A major exhibition of Noguchi’s ceramics produced over the year in Kamakura is held at the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura.


Returns to New York; U.S. government does not issue a visa for Yamaguchi due to suspected past associations with Communists in Hollywood; travels to Washington in an attempt to resolve the pending issues.

Applies to the U.S. government for his first Akari-related patents, “Stretchers and Support for Japanese Lanterns.”

May 1
Enters into agreement with Bonniers, Inc., a modern design store in New York, granting the store exclusive right to import and distribute his newly trademarked “Akari Lamps by Isamu Noguchi” in the United States.

May 17
Martha Graham’s Voyage premieres at the Alvin Theatre in New York, featuring set design by Noguchi.

Reunites with Yamaguchi in Paris; they travel together for several months.

July 16–30
Lives in Versailles, France, with Yamaguchi.

Early August
Visits the marble quarries in Carrara, Italy, to get price quotations on marble for the Lever Brothers building project.

Late August
The first shipment of Akari lamps for distribution in the United States arrives at Bonniers with significant damage. The shipment is destroyed and publicity canceled pending a replacement shipment.

Returns to New York; continues efforts to reverse the U.S. government’s refusal to renew Yamaguchi’s visa.

Returns to Paris and travels with Yamaguchi to Greece, Egypt, Burma (Myanmar), Bangkok, Hong Kong, Macao, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Singapore before stopping in Japan in March 1954.

November 24
Arrives in Greece with Yamaguchi to acquire Pentelic marble.

Joins Yamaguchi in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Receives a cable informing of the Lever Brothers’ decision to place the project for the ground-floor garden on hold.

Bonniers in New York begins to sell Akari after a replacement shipment arrives.


Bollingen grant is extended for one year, July 1954–June 1955.

Travels to Indonesia from Hong Kong, in advance of Yamaguchi, who is scheduled to shoot a film in the country in March.

Commissioned by Kawashima Textiles to design a theater curtain for Tokyu Theater.

May 26
Yamaguchi’s delayed visa is granted for travel to the United States. Isamu Noguchi and Yamaguchi make plans to travel to New York in September.

Moves from his residence in Kamakura to the Shiba district of Minato, Tokyo, which is more convenient for Yamaguchi’s work commute.

August 2–7
The first formal exhibition of Akari is held at the Chuo Koron Gallery in Tokyo, in a space redesigned by Isamu Noguchi and featuring his custom table and bench.

November 23
First exhibition at Stable Gallery, New York, Noguchi: Terracottas, opens and runs through January 8, 1955.


Stays in London and Paris with Yamaguchi; designs sets for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear; travels to Switzerland and France.

Two performances choreographed by Martha Graham premiere at ANTA Theatre in New York: Theatre of a Voyage and Seraphic Dialogue, both featuring set designs by Noguchi.

Bollingen fellowship ends; returns to New York.

June 29
Enters into agreement with Knoll Associates, Inc. for the design of a “rocking stool” for manufacture.

July 22
Enters into agreement with Wohnbedarf A-G, Zurich, granting exclusive right to import and distribute his Akari lamps in the Benelux States: Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Invited to submit a proposal for a commemorative monument to the Buddha planned for the 2,500th Buddha Jayanti Celebration in Kathmandu, Nepal.

September 3
Attends National Air Show in Philadelphia for airlift of Buckminster Fuller’s dome with Shirley Yamaguchi; meets Shoji Sadao (b. 1927).

Receives three major commissions: from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, landscaping for four courtyards and a terrace at the Connecticut General Life Insurance headquarters in Connecticut; from Marcel Breuer (1902–1981), a garden for the Delegates’ Patio at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, then under construction; and an interior waterfall and ceiling design for a building at 666 Fifth Avenue, New York.


Travels to London, Paris, Zurich, Karachi, Pakistan, Kathmandu, Patna, Calcutta, and Hong Kong before returning to Japan; begins a series of iron sand-mold castings in Gifu.

Begins a series of iron sand-mold castings with the Okamoto Imono company (Okamoto Chuzo-sho, Ltd.) in Gifu, and bell-bronze castings with Shosedo-Takahashi Chuzosho in Kyoto.

Knoll Associates begins manufacturing Isamu Noguchi’s Rocking Stool designs (1955) and metal-rod support tables (c. 1955).

Consults with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill on the development of Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza.


Divorce from Yamaguchi is finalized.

Begins discussions with Pantheon Books, Inc., and Percy Lund Humphries & Co., Ltd., London, about an idea for a “Pictoral Autobiography.”

Returns to Japan to search for stones for UNESCO garden; tours Tokushima with landscape architect Mirei Shigemori (1896–1975) and Kagawa Prefecture governor Masanori Kaneko. Introduced to Shigemori, author of a definitive twenty-six-volume book on Japanese gardens (Nihon Teien Shizukan) by Jimbei Kawashima, of Kawashima Textiles.

Travels to Osaka, and back to Tokyo in mid-May. Travels next to Shikoku island where he locates stones for UNESCO garden. Returns to Tokyo in the beginning of June.

Travels to Tokushima to supervise the mock placement of stones selected for the UNESCO garden. Noguchi is joined by Mirei Shigemori, and Shoji Sadao, who has traveled from his Fulbright post in Kyoto to assist.

Travels to Okayama for granite.

Returns to Paris from Japan and establishes a studio residence at No. 1 Villa Seurat in the 14th arrondissement.

Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) publicizes Noguchi’s Prismatic Table (1956), designed for Alcoa’s “Forecast Program.” (Prototypes are produced but the table is never put into production.)


Works in Greece on marble sculptures. Returns to France via Switzerland by the end of the month.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, expresses interest in arranging an exhibition of Noguchi’s sculpture at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. Noguchi proposes an exhibition of new and ongoing stone sculpture arrangements from Japan to Porter McCray, director of circulating exhibitions for the Museum of Modern Art, New York, but plans fail to materialize.

Two performances choreographed by Martha Graham premiere at the Adelphi Theatre in New York: Clytemnestra and Embattled Garden, both featuring set designs by Noguchi.

Ships fourteen new marble sculptures from Greece to the Stable Gallery in New York, with plans to complete work on them once he returns to New York from Paris and Japan.

A stainless steel sculpture by Noguchi is featured in the United States Pavilion at Expo ’58 in Brussels, Belgium.

Orders copies of iron works cast in Gifu, in preparation for exhibition in New York in 1959.

Returns to Paris from Japan via Israel, settling in a new residence at 1, rue Git Le Coeur in the 6th arrondissement.

November 3
UNESCO Garden is completed, and opens to the public the same day.

Late November
Returns to New York.

Early December
John Becker is invited to be co-author and editor of Isamu Noguchi’s “Visual Autobiography.”

Late December
Establishes a temporary studio in the workshop of lighting designer Edison Avery Price (1918–1977) on East 44th Street. Begins working in sheet aluminum with the assistance of architect Shoji Sadao.


April 29
Noguchi’s second exhibition at the Stable Gallery in New York opens, featuring Greek marble and Japanese cast-iron sculptures.

Orders additional copies, thirteen pieces total, from the cast iron series with Okamoto Chuzo-sho, Ltd., Gifu.

Travels to Paris, London, and Rome; works on book via mail with Lund Humphries and John Becker.

July 14
Meets Priscilla Morgan (1919–2014) in Paris.

Included in the second Documenta in Kassel, West Germany.

Awarded first prize (Logan Medal) in the 63rd Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago.


Travels to Jerusalem, Israel, on invitation of businessman Billy Rose in connection with a possible commission to design a sculpture garden for the proposed National Museum.

Unsatisfied with the text written by John Becker for his autobiography, Noguchi suggests finding new terms of agreement, or ending the collaboration and writing the book himself. Becker, unsatisfied with Isamu Noguchi’s changes to his manuscript, makes clear he will not permit use of his material in its revised form. As a result, the would-be publisher, Pantheon, retracts its support of the project.

April 27–29
Martha Graham’s Acrobats of God and Alcestis both premiere at the 54th Street Theatre in New York, featuring set designs by Noguchi.

Travels to Japan to search for granite for the First National City Bank Building Plaza in Fort Worth, Texas; tours the countryside with movie producer Kiichi Ichikawa (1922–2006).

October 4–8
Meets Gordon and Nina Bunshaft in Tokyo; acts as tour guide; they inspect work on Forth Worth project at stone supplier in nearby village. Noguchi introduces the Bunshafts to Kenzo Tange and Tange’s wife.

October 9–13
Accompanies Gordon and Nina Bunshaft (along with his half-brother Michio Noguchi) as they visit sites in Nagoya and Kyoto, including Daitoku-ji Temple and Saiho-ji (Kokedera) temple.

October 29–31
Arrives in New Delhi with Gordon and Nina Bunshaft; they visit Red Fort and make a day trip to Chandigarh to visit Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret.

November 2
Drives to Jaipur with Gordon and Nina Bunshaft, they visit the City Palace and the Jantar Mantar (astronomical observatory).

Returns to Japan to search for stones along the Uji River for the proposed Sunken Garden for Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza in New York.


Establishes a studio and living quarters in a former factory building in Long Island City in Queens, New York.

Begins a five-year collaboration with architect Louis I. Kahn (1901–1974) on the proposed Adele Rosenwald Levy Memorial Playground for New York’s Riverside Park.

May 16
First exhibition at Daniel Cordier & Michael Warren, Inc., opens in New York, featuring balsa wood and aluminum sculptures completed at the Edison Price workshop in 1959, which the Stable Gallery had declined to exhibit.

While in Japan, continues work on the proposal for the Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza. Receives price quotations for constructing a large granite sculpture in either the United States or Japan, and relays these to Gordon Bunshaft. Visits Kyoto to finalize the purchase of black stones chosen the previous year during travels with Bunshaft.


Chase Manhattan Bank and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill approve Isamu Noguchi’s design for a sunken garden for the bank’s plaza, initially proposed in 1956.

March 4
Martha Graham’s Phaedra premieres at the Broadway Theatre in New York, featuring set design by Noguchi.

c. March–April
Travels to Israel to begin work on the Billy Rose Sculpture Garden.

Planning phase for the circular garden pool for the plaza at the Chase Manhattan Bank is complete, including design and selection of stones.

May 11
Writes to Richard Kimball to request a studio at the American Academy for the month of August, intending to use it as a “center of operation” for travel to Israel during the construction of the Billy Rose Sculpture Garden, and as a place to begin a new series of bronze-cast sculptures. Kimball replies on May 21, and offers to have a garden studio ready by August 1. Begins plans to ship several balsa wood sculptures, and to enlarge works in clay for casting.

May 28
Requests help from Dimitri Hadzi in establishing a studio in Rome, seeking assistants to help with enlarging maquettes, building armatures, and casting clay sculptures into bronze.

Meets Erminio Cidonio, president of the Henraux Quarries and the owner, with his two brothers, of Mount Altissimo; begins working in Cidonio’s marble studios in Pietrasanta.

Establishes the Baraka Corporation for the construction, management, and sale of new and planned bronze editions.

August 31
Places an order with Giovanni and Angelo Nicci’s Fonditori Artistici, Roma for the casting of thirteen sculptures made in balsa wood and clay. Another order is placed with Fonderia Bruni.

September 3
Returns to New York from Rome.


Invited by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to design two interior courtyards for the IBM headquarters building in Armonk, New York.

Late January
Noguchi returns to Rome to supervise the completion of his casting orders. By early February, 11 works are completed by Nicci’s Fonditori Artistici. By mid-February, more works are completed by Fonderia Bruni. Five cases of bronze sculptures are shipped to New York in March.

April 2
Noguchi’s first exhibition with the newly incorporated Cordier & Ekstrom gallery opens in New York, featuring twenty-three new bronze sculptures cast in Rome and New York.

April 18
Appears on panel discussion on the theme of sculpture and “sculptural” architecture, alongside Constantino Nivola, Sidney Geist, and Ulrich Franzen, sponsored by the Architectural League in New York.

Returns to Rome to supervise the completion of a new set of casting orders necessitated by sales from the exhibition at Cordier & Ekstrom, and to fulfill a checklist for an exhibition planned in Paris in 1964. An order with Nicci’s foundry is completed by July 18, including the second copies (and in some cases the third and fourth copies) for many of the works exhibited in April. Nine earlier works are also cast in bronze for the first time, including plaster models such as Play Mountain, and magnesite sculptures such as Yellow Landscape.

September 6
Martha Graham’s Circe premieres at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London, featuring set design by Noguchi.

October 28
Nicci’s foundry in Rome prepares seventeen bronze castings for shipment to Gallerie Claude Bernard in Paris, and twenty bronze castings for delivery to Noguchi in New York.


Works to resolve pending issues after having completed the Sunken Garden for Chase Manhattan Bank in February, including problems with the water circulation and the bank’s decision to include goldfish, which he feels interfere with his design. In July, David Rockefeller, president of Chase Bank, confirms that the bank will remove the goldfish and make efforts to increase water flow.

Invited to participate as a sculptural consultant in the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Grave Design Review by John Carl Warnecke and Associates; presents his comments at a meeting on August 19; his own design is not accepted.

June 1964
Noguchi’s first solo exhibition in Paris opens at Galerie Claude Bernard, featuring editioned sculptures cast in bronze in Rome, Kyoto, and New York, as well as cast iron sculpture from Gifu.


March 17
Participates in second “Waldorf Panel” on sculpture at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, New York alongside Claes Oldenberg, Phillip Pavia, George Segal, George Sugarman, and James Wines.

The Billy Rose Sculpture Garden opens to the public in Jerusalem, Israel; Noguchi attends the opening ceremonies.

Receives the New York Architectural League’s Gold Medal for his sunken gardens at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library and the Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza.


After leaving Henraux quarries at the end of 1965, Erminio Cidonio invites Noguchi to relocate his Italian studio to the new center for sculpture he has founded in Versilia, Italy, outside of Seravezza, which comes to be known as “The Officina.”

In New York, a group of Upper West Side residents successfully file a taxpayers’ suit against Noguchi and Kahn’s proposed Adele Rosenwald Levy Memorial Playground for Riverside Park; the project is abandoned in October.

Establishes the Akari Foundation in New York to support both his estate planning and an artistic exchange between the United States and Japan.

Receives the Sculpture Medal of the Brandeis Creative Arts Award.


February 21
Martha Graham’s Cortege of Eagles premieres at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York, featuring set design by Noguchi. It is his last collaboration with Graham.

Invited by the United States Information Agency to propose an exhibition design for the U.S. Pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan.

Begins working with Masatoshi Izumi (b. 1938) in Mure-cho, Japan, on a commission for the Seattle Art Museum, Black Sun.


Designs the first in a series of freestanding public sculptures, Red Cube, for 140 Broadway in lower Manhattan, to be followed by Skyviewing Sculpture for Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington (1969); Portal for the Cuyahoga County Justice Center in Cleveland, Ohio (1976); and Sky Gate for Honolulu Municipal Building in Hawaii (1977), among others.

The first retrospective of Noguchi’s career is installed at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Invited by Kenzo Tange to design a series of fountains for the central lake of the Expo ’70 village in Osaka, Japan.

Octetra installed at Piazza del Duomo in Spoleto, Italy, as part of the Spoleto Festival.

New York-based Harper & Row publishes Isamu Noguchi’s autobiography, A Sculptor’s World.

First exhibitions with Gimpel Fils in London and Gimpel & Hanover in Zurich.

Shapes of Light opens at Cordier & Ekstrom, Inc., in New York, the first gallery exhibition devoted to Akari.


Establishes a studio in the village of Mure-cho in Shikoku, Japan, in collaboration with Masatoshi Izumi; begins an ongoing series of large-scale stone sculptures.

Akari Associates is formed in New York to manage Akari distribution in the United States and abroad.


Akari are introduced at Bloomingdale’s department store in New York.

November 11
Speaks at Carnegie Institute (now Carnegie Museum of Art) in Pittsburgh, opening the second series of “Men with Ideas.”

An abandoned eighteenth-century merchant’s house is reassembled on Izumi’s land in Mure-cho and becomes Noguchi’s residence.

Receives an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.


Visits Israel with Buckminster Fuller.

Receives an honorary Doctorate from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

Begins the first of a series of architectural collaborations with Shoji Sadao: the Philip A. Hart Plaza for Detroit, Michigan (1971–79), to be followed by Playscapes for Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Georgia (1975–76), California Scenario in Costa Mesa, California (1980–82), and Bayfront Park in Miami, Florida (1980–96), among others.


Receives an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design alongside filmmaker Roman Polanski.

The documentary film Isamu Noguchi: A Sculptor’s World, produced by Arnold Eagle, is released.

May 13
Erminio Cidonio, founder of “The Officina,” dies. The center, where Noguchi has had his Italian studio since 1966, closes down over the next several months. Noguchi later works with Cidonio’s former assistant, Giorgio Angeli, at Angeli’s recently-established stonecarving studio facilities in nearby Querceta when he visits Italy.

Arne Ekstrom agrees to Noguchi’s request for nonexclusivity in relation to the Cordier & Ekstrom Gallery in New York.

Molds and elements for nine sculptures are transferred to Fonderia Giovanni Tesconi & Figlio in Pietrasanta, Italy, for new and continued casting of bronze for series begun in Rome ten years earlier in 1962.


Noguchi’s first gallery exhibition in Japan in more than a decade opens at the Minami Gallery in Tokyo.


Acquires a building across the street from his Long Island City studio at 33rd Street and Vernon Boulevard; begins renovations to adapt the space for the display and storage of his sculpture.

Receives an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the New School of Social Research in New York.


Receives second prize from the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, Florida, for his design for IntetraMist Fountain (1974–76).

First solo exhibition with Pace Gallery, New York.


Receives a gold medal on behalf of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1977.


Abbeville Books in New York publishes Sam Hunter’s Isamu Noguchi, the first book-length monograph on Noguchi.

A major retrospective of Noguchi’s work is held at the Walker Art Center before traveling to the Denver Art Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, before concluding in January 1980 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

In New York, given the Mayor’s Award for Arts and Culture, in recognition of his contribution to the city.

Receives Albert Einstein Commemorative Award for outstanding achievements in the arts from Yeshiva University in New York.


Awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Proposes a “Memorial to Ben Franklin” to the city of Philadelphia, an adaptation of a 1933 proposal.

Unidentified Object (1979) is installed by the Public Art Fund at Columbus Circle, 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, in New York City.


The Akari Foundation is renamed the Isamu Noguchi Foundation.

A commission for the Bank of Tokyo in lower Manhattan, Shinto (1974–75), is dismantled and removed without Noguchi’s knowledge. After significant coverage in the press, the incident becomes part of a larger discussion on artists’ intellectual rights after the sale of their work.


Noguchi purchases land next to his Long Island City building and, with Shoji Sadao, begins the design and construction of The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum.

Approached by Gemini Graphic Editions Limited (G.E.L) in Los Angeles, California, about the possibility of working on editioned sculptures.

Travels to Romania; tours local architecture and visits artworks by Brancusi.

Receives an honorary degree from the University of Michigan.


Receives an Honorary Doctorate from the California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco/Oakland.

Noguchi sends fabricator Peter Carlson a series of twenty-six forms in styrofoam to be translated into hot-dipped galvanized steel. Prototypes of each are finished in autumn, and the first Gemini G.E.L. editions appear in 1983.

Awarded the Edward MacDowell Medal from the MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Speaks at the “Conference on Japan–U.S. Cultural Relations: Past, Present, and Future” in Hakone, Japan.


Travels to Peru; visits Machu Picchu with his half-brother Michio Noguchi and Masatoshi Izumi; photographs the Nazca Lines in southern Peru.

The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum in Long Island City, New York, opens by appointment.

Begins work with Masatoshi Izumi on the construction of a garden at the site of his studio in Mure-cho, Japan.


Miami voters turn down a park bond issue that included $5 million for the Bayfront Park renovation, stalling construction of the Noguchi-Sadao work for Bayfront Park.

Awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Columbia University, New York.

Celebrates his eightieth birthday at the Sogetsu School of Flower Arranging, Tokyo, Japan, with the opening of the exhibition Isamu Noguchi: Akari, Stone, and Terracotta.

Noguchi’s glass-top coffee table (IN-50) is reintroduced by Herman Miller after being discontinued in 1973.

Given the New York State Governor’s Award.

Awarded the Japanese American Citizens League Biennium Award.


The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum officially opens to the public.


Awarded the Municipal Art Society’s President’s Medal.

Represents the United States at the 42nd Venice Biennale with his exhibition Isamu Noguchi: What Is Sculpture?

Socrates Sculpture Park, designed in 1977 by Mark di Suvero (b. 1933), with the assistance of Noguchi, opens in Long Island City between the two artists’ respective studios; the park receives the Art Commission of the City of New York Special Recognition Award.

Receives the Kyoto Prize in Arts from the Inamori Foundation in Kyoto, Japan.


Presented with the National Medal of Arts by President Ronald Reagan in Washington, D.C.


Speaks at the “Distinguished Lecturer Series” at the Japan Society in New York.

The city of Sapporo announces plans to build Noguchi’s design for Moerenuma, a 485-acre public park based on Noguchi’s play designs over five decades. (Shoji Sadao is named executive architect working with the firm Architect 5 after Noguchi’s death. The park is completed in July 2005.)

Awarded Third Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Japanese government.

Dodge Fountain at the Philip A. Hart Plaza in Detroit wins “best classic entry” at a national competition for “Excellence on the Waterfront” sponsored by The Waterfront Center in Washington D.C.

Late November
Travels to Querceta, Italy, to work on marble sculptures in Giorgio Angeli’s studio for six days.

Receives the Award for Distinction in Sculpture from the Sculpture Center of New York.

December 30
Noguchi dies of heart failure in New York at New York University Hospital.










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