This extraordinary sculpture is a perfect expression of Isamu Noguchi's greatest work. The abstract work reveals a confluence of Asian and Western culture, ancient and modern art and ultimately conveys a sense of timelessness, a hallmark of Noguchi's art. The title, Magatama, is a reference to curved beads made of stone, earthenware or jade and worn as jewelry or used as ceremonial objects in prehistoric Japan while the surrealist, biomorphic shape relates to the work of his contemporaries such as Jean Arp and Henry Moore. 

The essence of sculpture is for me the perception of space, the continuum of our existence.

Isamu Noguchi

Sculpture to the Stars

An Illustrious Provenance

Magatama by Isamu Noguchi has a commanding presence and an illustrious Hollywood history. The work was a gift from the artist to John Huston, director of numerous films including The Maltese Falcon and his wife Evelyn Keyes, the actress best known for her role as Suellen O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. Since then the piece has been witness to tales of love and heartache, in true Hollywood fashion.

Noguchi gifted this work to the Hollywood newlyweds, John Huston and Evelyn Keyes in 1946.

John Huston and Evelyn Keyes, avid art collectors, were gifted Magatama when they visited Noguchi in his studio while honeymooning on the East Coast in 1946. When the couple divorced amicably in 1950, they divided their collection of art by coin toss, winner takes all. Huston lost and Ms. Keyes retained the Noguchi sculpture along with works by Picasso, Rufino Tamayo, Paul Klee and a large collection of pre-Columbian art.

A few years later, Keyes fell in love with the film producer, Mike Todd of Around the World in 80 Days. Upon their engagement, Keyes gifted the Noguchi work to Todd only to have him return it six weeks later, when he broke their engagement to pursue a relationship with Elizabeth Taylor whom he married in 1957. Tragically, Todd died a year later in a plane crash.

From John Huston and Evelyn Keyes to Mike Todd, Elizabeth Taylor, Artie Shaw and now Allan Glaser and Tab Hunter, this sculpture has a star-studded history.

Evelyn Keyes married the bandleader and clarinetist, Artie Shaw in 1957. They separated in the 1970s but didn’t divorce until 1985. At some point, without Keyes consent, Shaw sold off the majority of her art collection. Fortunately, the Noguchi avoided sale. Magatama remained in the collection of Ms. Keyes until her death in 2008 when it was bequeathed to the renowned film producer, Allan Glaser and his partner, Hollywood’s Golden Boy, Tab Hunter.

A Hollywood Story

Everything is sculpture... Any material, any idea without hindrance born into space, I consider sculpture.

Isamu Noguchi

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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