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Hundreds of Isamu Noguchi Artworks Damaged in Hurricane Sandy

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | November 13, 2012 7:09am

QUEENS — Hundreds of works by the late artist Isamu Noguchi were damaged by Hurricane Sandy's floodwaters in Long Island City.

The East River poured into The Noguchi Museum's storage area, at 33rd Road and Vernon Boulevard, during the storm. It flooded several hundred Noguchi artworks, including sculptures made of wood, metal, stone, and plaster, museum representatives said.

The damaged works were not regularly shown in the museum, but were part of the "residual collection" of the artist's less well-known pieces, many of which are untitled, according to the museum.

"The permanent collection of roughly 360 works — installed by the artist himself in the museum and sculpture garden he created for them — was unaffected,"  according to the Noguchi Museum's PR company, Jeanne Collins & Associates, LLC.

The museum remains closed while staff members repair the damaged artworks, which were housed in a lower-level storage area and were exposed to water when the East River seeped inside via vents on the Vernon Boulevard side of the building, representatives said.

All the affected works at the Noguchi Museum were made by the artist. The museum would not specify which pieces were harmed.

“Through the collective effort, an incredible amount has been accomplished in a very short time,” wrote Jenny Dixon, the Noguchi Museum’s director, in a message to the museum’s supporters on Nov. 2.

“However, we still have much to do in the week ahead.”

In preparation for the hurricane, the museum’s staff had either covered or moved the most vulnerable works out of danger.

Patinas were marred by the water, the museum said, but as much as 80 percent of the work can be restored with cleaning, while the remainder will require other restoration work.

"We believe that no works have been permanently damaged, and the building itself is secure," Dixon wrote.

Noguchi’s works on paper were stored on a higher floor and were not damaged.

The museum is scheduled to reopen Nov. 16.

Just across the street from the museum, the flooded Socrates Sculpture Park reopened to the public last week.

The riverfront park “was completely under water,” said the park’s executive director John Hatfield.

He said the park, in preparation for the hurricane, had made several arrangements, including deflating Chang Jin-Lee’s Buddha sculpture, “Floating Echo.”

But the level of water took everybody by surprise, he said.

One sculpture, Melissa Calderon’s “Indivisible,” a massive crown made of metal, was knocked down and bent by water and strong winds, Hatfield said.

“But I think we’ll be able to repair it,” he said.

The park lost many trees and its shoreline was eroded. Visitors to the muddy park this week were greeted by the sign “Caution: Trees are down. Do not lean on fences.”

The water also flooded the park’s office, located on the opposite side of Vernon Boulevard.

The floodwaters, which rose 18 inches, damaged some of the institution’s archives, Hatfield said.

“But we managed to dry and rescue most of the photographic original materials,” he said.

“We had a lot of visitors this weekend,” he added. “That made me feel good.”