Celebrating Queens' Noguchi Museum

October 8, 2009 3:20:36 PM PDT
Some of the most prominent names New York's art world will gather in Queens, in one of the borough's most beautiful spaces.It's a world-class art gallery located where you might least expect to find such a place.

The destination is the Isamu Noguchi Museum, located where Vernon Boulevard meets 33rd Road, near the East River, in Long Island City. And the magical experience can be yours for less than the cost of a movie ticket:

Behind the walls of an old factory and a former chop shop in the shadow of the projects lie the treasures of Queens. They are are works by one of the most important artists of the 20th century - the late Isamu Noguchi.

"His mother was American," close friend Priscilla Morgan said. "His father was the outstanding poet of Japan, and he was born out of wedlock."

The artist grew-up to bridge both cultures, east and west, through work that has stood the test of time. It is work he created right here in New York.

"It kindles the heart and stirs up the spirit," Queens borough president Helen Marshall said.

Marshall calls her support of the museum "a terrific investment."

"I'm very proud to have it in Queens," she said. "Manhattan has the Metropolitan Museum of Art and we've got Noguchi."

The artist urged us to appreciate the moment, and that's easy to do now. But it's hard to believe Noguchi's final resting place is in the garden he created, which was once an industrial wasteland.

"That part was the factory and over here was a place where stolen cars were fixed," Morgan said.

At nearly 90 years of age, Morgan is a custodian of Noguchi's legacy and a living link to the artist, who was her companion for many years.

"He needed freedom and I liked freedom, so we were together," she said. "but I was free and he was free, and that worked very well for the two of us. I loved him and I know he loved me, and it was a very beautiful relationship."

It was Priscilla who helped convince Noguchi to buy the space for use first as his studio, and later as a museum.

"He wanted someplace where people would see his work, and if it went to a large museum, it was down in the basement and brought out once every 10 years," she said. "That didn't make him happy, so now look at what we've accomplished."

Morgan will be celebrated Thursday night at the museum, where her many friends will gather for her 90th birthday party. A new building there holding all of Noguchi's papers will soon bear the name of his longtime companion.



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