The Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York has announced this year’s recipients of the annual Isamu Noguchi Award: contemporary artist Theaster Gates, author and artist Edmund de Waal, and writer Hanya Yanagihara. Celebrating its 10th year, the annual award recognizes individuals who share in Noguchi’s “spirit of innovation, unbounded imagination, and uncompromising commitment to creativity.”
Both Noguchi’s museum and award aim to honor the late artist’s legacy through the continuation of his philosophies, aesthetics, and values. Noguchi was known for his multidisciplinary approach that brought together traditional cultures and technological innovations, doing so through advancements he learned during his long career in design. He used sculpture as a means to understand our place in the universe and as a technique to integrate craft into our daily life.
The award is given out annually to artists from a range of disciplines, whose work embodies the qualities of Noguchi’s. Past recipients include architect John Pawson, Tadao Ando, and artist Elyn Zimmerman.
Director of The Noguchi Museum, Brett Littman, said in press release: “I cannot think of a group of better recipients for the Isamu Noguchi Award than Edmund, Theaster, and Hanya, as we celebrate its tenth year. The goal of our museum and this Award is to continue to expand the legacy, philosophy, aesthetics, and values of our founder Isamu Noguchi, and these creative artists do just that. All are deeply influenced by Noguchi and exemplify the integration of art, life, and the world around us to create works in a multitude of mediums that make our understanding of our past, present, and future more nuanced and enhanced.”
Theaster Gates is a contemporary artist and social innovator who focuses primarily on space theory, land development, sculpture, and performance. His completed works include the 2022 Serpentine Pavilion and the Monument in Waiting recently installed at Drexel University. In addition to his physical contributions to the built environment, he established the Rebuild Foundation as a means to promote other artists and foster community revitalization, devoting the community based non-profit to art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation. Gates said in a statement he was “humbled” to have received the award, adding: “The complexity and purity of Noguchi’s practice, and the ambition of his public works, has always been true north for me. The philosophies, traditions and ways of working that underpin Noguchi’s practice continue to act as pillars and anchors of truth for me.”
Edmund de Waal, is best known for his large scale installations of porcelain vessels and his written work, such as his family memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance, published in 2010. De Waal describes Noguchi as an early influence for his work, citing his time spent studying in Japan early in his career and the pilgrimages he took to many of Noguchi’s worksites. Noguchi’s relationship to clay and stone along with his philosophy of “the space around an object, or in non-material things” can be seen in the materiality and attention to place within de Waal’s work.
The final recipient, Hanya Yanagihara, is a novelist, editor, and writer who delves into the complex topics of what makes us human. In her position as editor in chief of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, she has used her keen interest in culture to create issues entrenched in global perspectives and dealing in art history, fashion, design, craft, and travel. Yanagihara describes Noguchi as an inspiration not just as an artist, but also as a politically engaged citizen. Through her work she exemplifies Noguchi’s ideas about the power of the written word and the need for a larger, more involved perspective.
The three recipients each represent the ideas and ideals set forth by Isamu Noguchi and his work, and they will be honored at the Noguchi Museum’s annual benefit gala on September 12.