Isamu Noguchi sculptures at the Empire State Plaza

Virtual Visit: Object Stories - Noguchi

Discover the story behind Isamu Noguchi’s Studies for the Sun, 1959-64.
Virtual Visit: Object Stories - Noguchi

Virtual Visit: Object Stories - Noguchi

Discover the story behind Isamu Noguchi’s Studies for the Sun, 1959-64.

Fast Facts


  1. Isamu Noguchi designed over 20 stage sets.
  2. Originally, he was a pre-Med student at Columbia University.
  3. Noguchi designed the first early baby monitor
  4. He created the first Akari lamps
  5. His slab sculptures were included in the 1946 exhibition Fourteen Americans at MoMA.
  6. He worked on a playground design from 1961-1966 with Louis Kahn.


Where did Noguchi get inspiration for his work?
Noguchi often incorporated Western and Eastern influences in his work and was inspired by the art and materials found while traveling, such as the ceramics of Japan, the public art in Mexico, and the marble of Italy.

Where did Noguchi study to become a sculptor?
Noguchi initially trained in medicine while taking sculpture classes at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School in New York. In 1927, he worked as a studio assistant to abstract sculptor Constantin Brancusi and eventually met artists such as Alexander Calder and Arshile Gorky.

Was Noguchi an activist?
Noguchi advocated against the prejudice Japanese Americans faced as a result of World War II. He voluntarily stayed in an incarceration camp in Arizona for seven months.

What were the other sculptures Noguchi designed for the Sunken Garden at Yale University?
Noguchi’s Sun was one of three components for the Sunken Garden at Yale University. A sun, a cube, and a pyramid rest on a geometrically designed floor, and every component is made from white marble.

Which sun study in the Empire State Plaza Art Collection most closely resembles the finished Sun in Yale University’s Sunken Garden?
Of the three studies, the iron sun is closest in form to the finished sculpture at Yale, although the iron version is darker and smaller.

Did Noguchi visit Japan throughout his career?
After spending part of his childhood in Japan, Noguchi continued to divide his time living and working in the United States and Japan.

What style of art is Noguchi’s work?
While Noguchi’s work is often classified as “abstract”, Noguchi did not want to belong to one type of style or school of art. He collaborated with a variety of artists and styles throughout his career.

Did Noguchi develop a museum?
Noguchi founded The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum in 1985 (now known as The Noguchi Museum) and in 2004 it was combined with the private Isamu Noguchi Foundation to form The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum.

What other piece of furniture did Noguchi design with a soft-corned, triangular glass top above curved, asymmetrical wood supports?
A coffee table

Which art center did Noguchi build a sculpture for in 1978?
Storm King Art Center in the Hudson Valley of New York

Which group did he cofound to raise awareness of the patriotism of Japanese Americans?
Nisei Writes and Artists Mobilization for Democracy