There are so many excellent art museums in New York City that most people fail to go beyond the most well known: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the New Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum. All of them are great museums, and I’ve written about many in this blog. But there are others, less well known, that are worthy of a visitor’s time and attention. One of the best, in my opinion, is the Noguchi Museum. Located in Long Island City, the Noguchi Museum houses the work of Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988).
One of the things that makes this museum so special is the architecture. When Noguchi decided to build his museum in Long Island City, he designed an amazing space to house his art. One part of the museum is an old industrial building that Noguchi repurposed. To that building, Noguchi added a modern structure and a walled garden. The combination of hard, industrial lines, concrete, old wood floors, natural light, and drywall showcases his work to great advantage.
The outdoor space is my favorite. There are two types of outdoor space. Part is mostly enclosed by the walls of the building, but with open spaces near the ceilings. These open spaces let in light in special ways, casting unique shadows. The day I visited, there had been some rain earlier in the afternoon. The damp floor and even slight puddling in places only added to the overall artistic environment.
The garden is a tranquil oasis, a green space that’s the perfect foil for more of Noguchi’s sculptures. There are several places to sit for a while, enjoying the beauty of the garden environment. The combination of natural materials with stone and metal is striking, and the height of the walls surrounding the garden provide a welcome refuge from the busy outside world.
Inside, there are sculptures spanning Noguchi’s professional career and utilizing a range of techniques, styles, and media. I enjoyed the contrast between different types of stone, textures, and scale.
There’s a special exhibition right now titled “Self-Interned, 1942.” As a resident of New York City during World War II, Noguchi was not required to enter a Japanese-American internment camp, but he voluntarily spent several months in the Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona with the hope (unrealized, unfortunately) that he would be able to develop an art program for the camp. The exhibition includes both art and artifacts from that time period. This exhibition is only open through January 2018.
Finally, Noguchi was also known for his lamp designs, and there is a room with a number of examples of those designs.
Want to see the Noguchi Museum in person? The Museum is located at 9-01 33rd Road (at Vernon Boulevard) in Long Island City. If you are traveling by public transportation, you can take the N or W trains to the Broadway station, and then walk 8 blocks west on Broadway until you reach Vernon Boulevard. Turn left and walk 2 more short blocks to the museum. (You will see Socrates Sculpture Park at Broadway and Vernon Boulevard, another great place to visit.) If you don’t want to walk that far, you can also take the Q103 bus, which has stops near many of the other subway stations in Long Island City. (For specific directions, use the Trip Planner on the MTA website.)
Note: The Noguchi Museum is not open on Mondays or Tuesdays. On the first Friday of each month, admission to the museum is free – and there are also extended hours on First Fridays during the summer, as well as a cash bar.