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News April 2020

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Isamu Noguchi installation May Be Removed from Midtown Lobby

April 22, 2020

For the second time since 1998, Isamu Noguchi’s (1904–1988) site-specific installation “a landscape of clouds” (1957) is under the threat of removal. Brookfield Properties, the developers of 666 Fifth Avenue, home to Noguchi’s work, has building renovation plans that include dismantling the piece.

Brookfield Properties takes the position that Noguchi’s design as it currently stands lost integrity following a previous renovation that enclosed what had been an open-air passageway and removed the original patterned marble floor and polished marble walls. In a February New York Times article, Brookfield spokesman Andrew Brent said the work “in no way reflects Noguchi’s original vision,” but John Morris Dixon, DOCOMOMO US/New York Tri-State board member, countered: “The most significant part of the original ensemble has survived, and it’s landmark worthy. You already have this strong, creative treatment of the walls and the ceiling and you can’t expect to come up with something nearly as artistically effective again,” said Dixon, former editor in chief of Progressive Architecture. “Why risk it when you’ve got it already? The lobby is a great asset that gives a high degree of individuality to the building. Culturally it would be a major loss to the city, and a loss to MoMA, too, because it’s a kind of extraterritorial exhibit just across the street. It’s like a MoMA annex.” Despite DOCOMOMO US/New York Tri-State requesting that the LPC designate it, the lobby of 666 Fifth Avenue is currently not landmarked.

“Isamu Noguchi Artwork in Midtown Building Is in Peril” New York Times, February 25, 2020.

The artwork in the lobby, designed in 1957, which Noguchi called “a landscape of clouds.”Credit...The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; The New York Times.