Modernist 20th Century /07 December 2003


Isamu Noguchi

maquette for Pylon, Detroit Civic Center Plaza
USA, 1971
6½ w × 6½ d × 31 h in (17 × 17 × 79 cm)

Designed as part of an ambitious urban renewal plan, the Detroit Civic Center Plaza grew out of a 2 million dollar gift from Anne Thompson Dodge for a grand fountain. Noguchi was initially contacted to design the fountain, but his submitted design went on to encompass the entire 8-acre plaza as well as sculpture to mark the entrance. The resulting Pylon was constructed out of aluminum and stands 120 feet tall. Noguchi commented, "The design of the Pylon was my personal contribution. Its building moved the plaza into actual realization."Davidson Aluminum and Metal Corporation in Deer Park, New York was retained to construct the sculpture. Working directly with Noguchi, the illustrated maquette was made to determine that "the metal could take the twist that Noguchi envisioned." Davidson Corporation went on to fabricate the final sculpture. The maquette was given to Al Davidson upon the successful completion of the project in recognition of the firm's fine work.Literature: The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Noguchi, pp. 178-179 with commentary on the PlazaIsamu Noguchi: A Study of Space, Torres, pp. 174-183Isamu Noguchi, Hunter, pp. 164-165

provenance: Gift of the artist to Albert DavidsonThence by descent

estimate: $30,000–40,000
result: $42,480

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Isamu Noguchi 1904–1988

Isamu Noguchi was the son of Yone Noguchi, a Japanese poet, and Léonie Gilmour, an American writer. He was born in Los Angeles in 1904 but lived in Japan from the age of two until 1918 when he returned to the United States to attend school in Indiana. In 1922 Noguchi moved to New York to study pre-medicine at Columbia University. He also took night courses in sculpture with Onorio Ruotolo and soon after, he left Columbia in pursuit of a career in the arts.

In 1927 Noguchi received a Guggenheim Fellowship for a trip to Paris and the Far East. For six months in Paris, he worked in the studio of Constantin Brancusi and his own work became more abstract as Noguchi explored working with stone, wood and sheet metal. Noguchi returned to New York and in 1929 he met R. Buckminster Fuller and Martha Graham, colleagues and friends with whom he would later collaborate. In 1938 Noguchi was commissioned to complete a work for the Associated Press building in the Rockefeller Center in New York. Marking his first public sculpture, this work garnered attention and recognition for the artist in the United States.

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