Noguchi Museum opens in Japan

by Georgina Adam

Mure - In May this year the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum finally opened to the public after often bitter wrangling delayed the project for over four years.

The wounds only seem to be partly healed between the New York Foundation, which runs the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum Garden and sells his signature Akari lamps, and the sculptor’s Japanese assistant, Masatoshi Izumi. He is the owner of the land - sited near a stone-cutters’ village in Shikoku, the fourth of Japan’s main islands - on which Noguchi established a studio and spent the last 19 years of his life.

The site includes two immense kura (storage houses), a sculpture "garden" and an 18th century samurai house which was Noguchi’s home when in Mure. Now everything but the house is open, and visitors can stroll amongst pieces outside, or admire major works such as the immense circular "Energy void", which stand inside the old sake kura.

The problems between Japan and America arose over the financial aspects of the project. Against Izumi’s wishes, some sculptures were removed from Mure and sold; the American Foundation finally agreed to donate some of the proceeds, plus guarantee up to $200,000 in operating costs for three years. Local government chipped in with another Y200 million (about $1.6 m).

The future is not necessarily rosy for the museum. When I visited the site last year, Izumi’s daughter explained that, with Japanese interest rates at a paltry 0.3%, they receive virtually no income from these endowments. Mure is well off the beaten track and quite difficult to find. "We worry about what will happen after the three years are up and we have to finance all this ourselves, " she told me at the time.

First published in The Art Newspaper, Summer 1999.

The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum Japan can be contacted on 81 87 870 1500, fax 81 87 845 0505. The site is open three days a week, and reservations are required, as only 60 visitors per day will be allowed.

Georgina Adam is a Tokyo-based freelance art writer and correspondent for The Art Newspaper and The Asian Art Newspaper.
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