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Groundbreaking exhibition presents works by Isamu Noguchi and Qi Baishi together for the first time
Qi Baishi, Crabs, circa 1930. Album leaf, ink on paper. University of Michigan Museum of Art. Gift of Sotokichi Katsuizumi, 1949/1.199.

ANN ARBOR, MI.- The University of Michigan Museum of Art is presenting Isamu Noguchi and Qi Baishi: Beijing 1930, an exhibition of drawings and paintings by the two eminent artists seen side-by-side for the first time and the first large-scale exhibition to focus on the fruits of Noguchi’s six-month stay in Beijing in 1930. This exhibition showcases the artists' cross-cultural creative impulses and underscore their respective and lasting influences on contemporary practice worldwide. The exhibition, which is accompanied by a scholarly publication, will travel to The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum in New York City and the Frye Art Museum in Seattle following its debut in Ann Arbor, where it is on view May 18 through September 1, 2013.

Isamu Noguchi and Qi Baishi: Beijing 1930 is organized by the University of Michigan Museum of Art in collaboration with The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York.

This major exhibition features more than 60 drawings, including ink paintings, calligraphic works and sculptures from UMMA, The Noguchi Museum, and other public and private collections. The exhibition and its accompanying publication shed new light on the transformative relationship between versatile American artist Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) and Chinese ink painter Qi Baishi (1864–1957). In 1930, at the age of twenty-six, Isamu Noguchi traveled eastward on the Trans-Siberian Railroad towards Japan, where he hoped for reconciliation with his father and a reconnection with the childhood sources of his artistic inspiration. Noguchi stopped en route for six months in Beijing, where—unplanned—he met and studied with the renowned Qi Baishi, an experience that greatly affected his vision of abstraction.

That the art and career of Noguchi was influenced by Asian traditions is well established. These Asian associations have long focused on the art of Japan and India. Less widely known, however, is that Noguchi studied in Beijing during the formative years between his apprenticeship with abstract sculptor Constantin Brancusi in Paris in the mid 1920s and his immersion into the New York art scene in the 1930s. In Beijing, Noguchi became acquainted with and had the opportunity to observe the painting process of Qi, who is considered one of the most influential ink painters in China in the 20th century. The result of Noguchi’s encounter with Qi is the series of more than one hundred ink-and-brush works later called Peking Drawings.

Sotokichi Katsuizumi—a Japanese businessman, collector of Chinese painting, and a graduate of the University of Michigan—introduced young Noguchi to Qi Baishi in person in 1930. In 1949, Katsuizumi donated 10 works by Qi Baishi and one work by Noguchi to UMMA, which became the seed of this groundbreaking exhibition.

The exhibition features 43 works by Noguchi and 23 works by Qi Baishi, in addition to Noguchi’s brushes, Qi Baishi’s seal made for Noguchi, and archival materials. As a selection of Noguchi’s Peking Drawings and Qi Baishi’s paintings are viewed together for the first time, this exhibition also provides insight into the importance of China in Noguchi’s artistic formation.

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