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Isamu Noguchi
Helix of the Endless, 1985
Aji granite and basalt
Courtesy of The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum

Isamu Noguchi Helix of the Endless, 1985 Aji granite and basalt Courtesy of The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum


Isamu Noguchi at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

September 14, 2009–August 16, 2010

The inaugural installation in the museum's new Sculpture Garden, Isamu Noguchi at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is an extraordinary selection of sculptures by an artist who had longstanding ties with the museum and our late Director Anne d'Harnoncourt, and is represented in the collection by the wonderful cast-bronze biomorphic Avatar, (1948).

In the mid-1960s, Noguchi recognized his preference for stone above all other materials and by the end of the decade he established a studio on the Japanese island of Shikoku where he carved the large granite and basalt sculptures that culminated his career. Most of these late sculptures have large areas of unworked surface, presenting the stone as it emerged from the earth and embodying Noguchi's philosophy that sculpting should follow the potential and characteristics of the material used.

Isamu Noguchi at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is the result of a collaboration with The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum in Long Island City, New York. The sculptures will remain on view through summer 2011.

The Sculpture Garden

The museum's new, one-acre, terraced Sculpture Garden was designed by Olin landscape architects working with Atkin Olshin Schade Architects. It received official commendation from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for its environmentally friendly design. The museum worked closely with Olin to incorporate plantings that attract and provide a sustaining habitat for local wildlife—and was recognized for that effort with a Citation of Merit from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The Sculpture Garden presents a superb and versatile outdoor setting for the appreciation of art, offering a lively experience of sculpture for both the casual passerby and devoted art lovers. Gracefully integrated into the existing landscape, the Sculpture Garden extends the museum's vast galleries to the outdoors while strengthening the Museum's connections to the city and Fairmount Park. Its pathways and vistas, green space, and water feature create a variety of spaces for art while maintaining an open setting that invites Philadelphia's public to explore a new expression of the museum's goal to make more art available to an ever-growing audience. As the Sculpture Garden's grounds will reflect the changing seasons, so will its artistic offerings.

Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden

About the Artist

Isamu Noguchi

The son of a Japanese poet father and an American writer mother, sculptor Isamu Noguchi forged an aesthetic vision that reflected the richness of his dual American and Japanese heritage. As a young artist, Noguchi studied in New York, Paris, London, Beijing and Kyoto. His earliest sculptures were made under the tutelage of the great Romanian-born sculptor Constantin Brancusi, with whom the artist studied in the late 1920s in France. Although stone would become his material of choice, Noguchi also worked in clay, paper, wood, and bronze. He became celebrated as a designer of rock gardens, Akari lanterns, furniture, and stage sets. A precursor to the global artists who emerged later in the 20th century, Noguchi established studios in United States and Japan and regularly worked in Italy. His work is included in museum collections around the world, including, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and his large outdoor monument to Benjamin Franklin, “Bolt of Lightning”, can be seen in Philadelphia at the entrance to the Ben Franklin Bridge.


Carlos Basualdo, The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art; Adelina Vlas, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

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