We round up the reviews for the Barbican’s new exhibition celebrating the work of Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi.  

Isamu Noguchi at the Barbican. Photograph: Tim P Whitby/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery.

The Guardian: ** “If you like hanging out in high-end lighting shops, the Barbican art gallery is the place for you right now. Paper lampshades are everywhere, from tall wavy ones on the floor to deluxe versions of the spherical lantern shades you can buy anywhere. Beautifully spaced, warm with glowing light, artfully ornamented with objects in stone, ceramics and bronze, this survey of the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi is a must for design buffs – and a total bore for anyone in search of true art.”

The Independent: ***** “If you’re thinking, “Surely a paper light shade can’t be art”, or, “Sorry, is this an art or a design exhibition?”, you’re exactly the kind of person who needs to see this woefully undersung late artist’s first British show in 20 years. Encompassing sculpture, theatre, architecture, interiors, gardens and industrial design, it takes us to a post-war utopian moment when art, design and architecture were integrated in pursuit of a new world of light, space and social harmony.”

The Arts Desk: **** “Noguchi died in 1988 having lived though turbulent times. His response was to keep on experimenting, endlessly exploring new materials like plastic, chrome and bakelite only to return to traditional ones like marble, wood, ceramic and bronze. The work keeps changing, he said, “because I change; time changes.” This survey provides fascinating insights into the mind of a restless spirit who infiltrated many of our lives.”

Time Out: ***** “Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) is a victim of his own success. The pivotal modernist sculptor and designer’s experiments with material and light were groundbreaking, and totally shaped how our world looks. 

That’s an amazing, impressive feat. But his influence also means that walking into this beautiful retrospective feels a hell of a lot like walking into the world’s fanciest Ikea.”

Culture Whisper: ***** “Noguchi worked with many media – wood, clay, metal and nature itself – to create both pieces and spaces that illustrated his conviction that art should be ‘something which teaches human beings how to become more human.’

And as your visit to this engrossing exhibition draws to its end, somehow you do feel more human.”

Plinth.uk.com: “From ‘Slide Mantra’ to outdoor play equipment, stairs and boardgames, the Japanese-American artist champions joy and frivolity. From 1933, Musical Weathervane, he made incremental steps towards light sculpture. ‘I thought of a luminous object as a source of delight in itself – like fire it attracts and protects us from the beasts of the night’, the artist is quoted one of the walls of the new retrospective at Barbican.”

London Visitors: “The exhibition highlights Noguchi’s close and enduring friendship with inventor and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller. Their creative dialogue on the cosmic scale of the universe inspired Noguchi’s world consciousness and continued use of new technology from his artistic beginnings until his late career.”

Noguchi’s work is on display at the Barbican until the 9th January 2022.