Isamu Noguchi - Design New York Saturday, November 14, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection of the artist; Steph Simon Archives, Paris; Galerie Downtown, Paris

  • Exhibited

    "Japonisme," Galerie Downtown, Paris, September-December 2002

  • Literature

    "Isamu Noguchi: The Sculptor as Designer," The Museum of Modern Art Calendar, October 1977

  • Catalogue Essay

    Ideographs convey ideas as opposed to words that bear the same meanings. Isamu Noguchi’s ideographic signature on the present lot combines images of sun and moon. The idea is not as clear perhaps as those conveyed by, say, &, $, or ∞, but one can guess at Noguchi’s meaning (that last symbol for infinity is a good start). Over a sixty-year career, Noguchi strove to convey ageless truths: lightness, weight, fragility, durability, chaos, calm. Lists are tedious but instructive. Noguchi’s long protean journey across mediums—wood, stone, clay, paper—had no limits. “I avoid Finality,” he wrote (The Sculpture of Isamu Noguchi, New York, 1980).
    But Noguchi dealt in contradictions, too. An enclosed space, his ‘Meditation Room’ has finite boundaries. But does it? Walls blow to-and-fro in wind; the mind inside can wander. The present lot comprises hand-made mulberry bark paper, long used in the production of Japanese lanterns, and which Noguchi adopted for his Akari light sculptures in 1951. But ‘Meditation Room’ illuminates in a different way: it glows with the light of contemplation. Commenting on another type of enclosure, Noguchi stated, “I admire the Japanese Garden because it goes beyond geometry into the metaphysics of nature, and our relationship to it: the relation of the space to nature, with man either as spectator or as participant. To me art is part of the environment…” (Isamu Noguchi, New York, 1978, p. 154) ‘Meditation Room’ is also an inhabitable environment that calls for inspection and participation. Just think, it’s a sculpture that provokes thought and holds it.
    The present Akari sculpture, model no. 820-PL1, is one of only two known examples ever produced. The present lot was formerly in the archive of Steph Simon whose gallery, on Boulevard St. Germain, Paris, represented the artist. The other known example is in the collection of the Noguchi Museum, Long Island City, New York. One of the two appeared in the 1977 exhibition ‘Noguchi: Sculptor as Designer’ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.


Rare and important Akari “Meditation Room,” model no. 820-PC1

ca. 1975
Japanese mulberry bark paper, copper rod, rope.
96 x 47 1/2 x 47 1/2 in. (243.8 x 120.7 x 120.7 cm.), variable drop
Produced by Ozeki Company, Gifu, Japan.  One of two examples ever produced.  Top of structure stamped with artist’s ideograph.

$80,000 - 120,000 


14 Nov 2009
New York