From the Collection of the Artist
Isamu Noguchi had two permanent homes before his death in 1988 although he rarely spent more than four months at a stretch at either of them. His home in New York was a small penthouse apartment on East 69th Street, and his other was a reconstructed Samurai house on the Island of Shikoku in Japan next to the stone carving facility where he produced most of his hard stone sculptures. The 69th Street apartment in Manhattan was convenient for him as his studio in Long Island City, Queens was a short Volkswagen Rabbit ride across the 59th Street bridge.
By the time Noguchi died, I had worked for him for eight years as a studio assistant and studio manager. After his death, I continued to work for his foundation and subsequently The Noguchi Museum for a total of thirty years in the capacities of collections manager, registrar, foundation liaison to the board of trustees, and eventually chief curator for his museum. His executors distributed some of what was considered then the less valuable contents of his apartment. They offered me, and I eagerly accepted, Noguchi’s custom Issey Miyake tuxedo that was designed for him when he received the National Medal of the Arts Award from President Reagan. The executors also gave me his Eames Aluminum Group Side Chair, a dresser, and a two-part shelving unit, furniture items situated in his bedroom.
His one-bedroom apartment on 69th Street, which he acquired in the late 1960s, was modern and modest. The living room area had tatami, but the rest of the apartment was in a conventionally western style. This shelving unit in birch veneer is tall with long clean lines, almost 95 inches high. The two units are modular and perhaps because of their simplicity and common materials, could easily be overlooked as something Noguchi designed. He made a drawing for this shelving unit for his cabinet maker, Erwin J. Fehrenbach, who also worked out of Long Island City. The drawing is by Noguchi’s hand and in the archives of The Noguchi Museum.
Bonnie Rychlak, Former Chief Curator of The Noguchi Museum