In a city full of long lines and must-sees, the Noguchi Museum is one of the few places that still refreshingly feels like a secret.
The Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi himself founded the museum in 1985 as a way to preserve and display his sculptures, architectural models, stage designs, drawings, and furniture designs. The ground-floor galleries and garden are devoted to his work, and since 2004, the museum has hosted temporary exhibitions related or further devoted to his work.
The museum is situated along the waterfront a bit of a hike from the nearest subway. Upon arrival, you immediately can get lost in its peaceful sculpture garden, which greets you as you first enter the building. The reflective garden is a draw in and of itself, but be sure to go on to explore the museum's indoor galleries, too.
You also can't go to the museum without also visiting its shop. The design shop lets you bring home a bit of the experience, as much of Noguchi's work is available for purchase, including his Akari Light Sculptures, lamps first produced in Japan in the fifties made from Japanese washi paper and bamboo ribbing, and his furniture designs. Especially helpful for the online browser with a budget are the items under $150.
For those who like some guidance, the gallery offers free talks in both English and Japanese, Wednesday through Sunday at 2 pm.
Since the museum's founding more than 20 years ago, the Long Island City area has become one of the city's foremost cultural centers, also seeing the addition of the Socrates Sculpture Park one block away from the Noguchi Museum, as well as SculptureCenter, MoMA PS1, and, over in Astoria, Museum of the Moving Image. So you can make it a full day of exploring the Queens waterfront art scene.