NOGUCHI, Isamu (1904-1988)

Sculpted granite, weight of 7800 kilos
362 x 165 x 58 cm
Date of entry at UNESCO
Country of origin Japan
Donation made to UNESCO by Japan within the context of the global donation of the Japanes garden - also designed by Isamu Noguchi- during the construction of the Fontenoy Building in Paris.
© Photo: UNESCO/ M. Claude. "Fountain of Peace" by I. Noguchi
The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York

In 1957, the UNESCO "Committee for Architecture and works of art" organized a competition for the artistic decoration of its permanent headquarters. The committee members included the architects who built the buildings - Bernard Zehrfuss, Marcel Breuer, Luigi Nervi - as well as C. Para-Perez, who chaired a Committee of art advisers responsible for guiding the selection of works; this Committee included Georges Salles, Shahid Subrawardy and Herbert Read as members.

Isamu Noguchi was among the artists selected by UNESCO, who, represented by Marcel Breuer, commissioned him for the Japanese garden located at the Organization’s Headquarters in Paris.

The Japanese garden, located at the foot of the UNESCO buildings, occupies 1700 square meters of land. It offers a haven of peace and meditation in the heart of Paris. A stream, a lake, a bridge, shrubs and trees form this rigorous creation. The cherry trees, plum trees and magnolias were imported from Japan by specialized gardeners who assisted Noguchi in the realization of his work. It should be noted that every stone, every blade of grass, every river has its own place and is integrated within a whole through harmony and serenity. Every detail has been thought both for itself and in relation to the other element, and can but lead to contemplation.

"The Fountain of Peace" completes this composition. Noguchi, primarily a sculptor, here plays with the empty and full space as well as the spatiality of isolated forms. This sculpture is made of gray granite rock and incised with the word "Peace" in Japanese characters, placed backwards so that it is correctly reflected in the water that flows at the foot of the fountain. The sculpture is part of a group of stones, each with its own mystical meaning: the Permanent stone, the Small Mountain of the Waterfall, the Side of the Mountain, the Beach of Sand, the Close Mountain and the Far Mountain, the Adoration Stone...

Artist Biography

Isamu Noguchi was born in Los Angeles on November 17, 1907; his father was a Japanese poet and his mother an American writer. He grew up in Japan and in 1922 moved to New York where he enrolled in Medical School. In 1924, encouraged by his mother, he took up evening sculpture classes at the Leonardo da Vinci Arts School. He moved to Paris in 1927, where he joined Brancusi’s studio. In 1938 he designed his first fountain for the Ford Motors Company. His first solo exhibition was held at the Charles Egan Gallery in New York. His work was influenced both by the avant-garde sculptors he frequented as well as by traditional Asian art. Throughout his life he was nurtured by both his cultures of origin, which coexist in all his works.

Noguchi continually travelled between the U.S.A., Europe, Japan and Mexico. In 1968 a retrospective of his work was held at the Museum of American Art. In 1983, the Noguchi Museum was inaugurated in Long Island, New York. Noguchi passed away in New York on December 30, 1988.