An artwork by the famed 20th-century sculptor Isamu Noguchi is in danger of being disassembled as part of a real estate developer’s plans to remodel a Midtown Manhattan building across the street from the Museum of Modern Art. The sculpture in question, Landscape of the Cloud, complementary ceiling and waterfall pieces created in 1957, is situated in the lobby of a structure at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York. The works comprise wavelike aluminum blades that line the lobby’s ceiling, and an upright version down which water flowed until several years ago, but, according to a report by the New York Times, Brookfield Properties will likely remove them during a building-wide renovation. (Brookfield Assets Management signed a 99-year lease on the building, which is owned by Jared Kushner’s family, in 2018.)
Andrew Brent, a representative for Brookfield Properties, which may donate the disassembled pieces to another party after they are extracted from the original location, told the Times that the work “no longer reflects Noguchi’s original vision” as a result of previous renovations. Some preservationists, meanwhile, have called the sculpture “landmark worthy,” arguing that it stay in place.
The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum in Queens, which houses the world’s largest collection of Noguchi’s artworks, is also working “to ensure that the work remains in situ,” the foundation’s director, Brett Littman, told the Times.
This is not the first time Noguchi’s Landscape of the Cloud has been in danger of destruction. In 1988 the work was nearly demolished when the building underwent another alteration.
“The lobby is a great asset that gives a high degree of individuality to the building,” John Morris Dixon, a board member of the preservation advocacy group Docomomo, told the Times. “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.”