Danh Vo and Isamu Noguchi at M+

‘Noguchi for Danh Vo: Counterpoint” is the eighth exhibition at the M+ Pavilion
By Sanjana Venkatakrishnan

Danh Vo, ‘We the People (detail')’, 2011-2016, copper, 126 x 92 x 28cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Danh Vo, ‘We the People (detail')’, 2011-2016, copper, 126 x 92 x 28cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

“Noguchi for Danh Vo: Counterpoint” is a dialogue between Vietnamese-Danish artist Danh Vo and the late Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi. Curated by Doryun Chong, Deputy Director, Curatorial, and Chief Curator, M+ and Dakin Hart, Senior Curator, The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York, it marks the Hong Kong museum’s first collaboration with an international partner. The exhibition opens on 16 November 2018 in the gallery space of the M+ Pavilion as well as the Art Park of the West Kowloon Cultural District and will run till 22 April 2019.

Isamu Noguchi, ‘Cloud Mountain’, 1982-1983, hot-dipped galvanised steel, 177.2 x 125.1 x 71.8cm. © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS. Photo: Kevin Noble.

Isamu Noguchi, ‘Cloud Mountain’, 1982-1983, hot-dipped galvanised steel, 177.2 x 125.1 x 71.8cm. © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS. Photo: Kevin Noble.

Commenting on the pairing of the two artists in the exhibition, Chong notes, “Both Isamu Noguchi and Danh Vo have displacement and transcultural movement at the core of their lives and practices. By placing these two artists in dialogue, we seek to emphasise that cultural meanings change despite our convictions and prejudices, and that the definition of art is never fixed or rigid. This approach is at the core of M+’s work.”

We can expect more of such innovative exhibition ideas from the curatorial team. “As a museum that is rooted in Hong Kong and focused on Asia, we have defined a global perspective that seeks to identify connections across cultures and contexts, and to create new adjacencies between practices and disciplines,” says Chong. “The collaboration with Danh Vo and The Noguchi Museum in New York is a clear articulation of our mission.’

A highlight within the gallery space is Vo’s ‘Untitled (Structure for Akari PL2)’, a Chinese scholar’s pavilion made to house PL2 model ‘Akari’ lamps designed by Noguchi and around which nearly 40 additional works from his oeuvre spanning the 1920s and the 1980s are showcased. These include sculptures such as ‘Cloud Mountain’, made of galvanised steel and ‘Leda’, made from alabaster.

Isamu Noguchi, ‘Leda’, 1942, alabaster, 26 x 47.6 x 47.6 cm © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS. Photo: Kevin Noble.

Isamu Noguchi, ‘Leda’, 1942, alabaster, 26 x 47.6 x 47.6 cm © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS. Photo: Kevin Noble.

Most of the works by Vo, who, like Noguchi, is conversant in a range of techniques and mediums, are exhibited outdoors. A highlight is a copper piece of ‘We the People (detail)’ (2011-2016), an exact replica of the Statue of Liberty that has been separated into more than 300 distinct fragments. The reconfiguration of the replica allows the audience to observe the different sections of the statue from various up-close and unorthodox angles. However, only some fragments of the replica are recognisable, such as the gigantic ear. This work is a preview of a playscape to come on the rooftop terrace of the M+ Building, which is slated for completion next year.